People think that their first response to a physically attractive potential partner is due to visual input. This is not accurate. If we were not already conditioned by human pheromones to respond to physical attributes, we could not develop an appropriate response to what we see.

Even when the chemicals were transferred to you in the womb, your experience with food chemistry before birth set the stage for your adult food preferences. Just as food aroma cause changes in our physiology that are associated with hunger, ingestion, and satiety, human pheromones cause our physiology to change. With the human pheromone-induced changes in physiology come human pheromone-induced changes in behavior. The changes in physiology and behavior happen without thought; you don’t know that the changes are happening.

Pheromones are chemical signals from other people that condition you to respond to what you see. For example: which of these pictures do you find most attractive

These pictures are of a face that has been altered in appearance to show the difference between how high levels of testosterone change facial features (left) compared to how high levels of estrogen change facial features (right). The three faces between the most masculine face (on the right) and the most feminine face (on the left) represent variations in levels of hormones, like testosterone and estrogen, that are associated with attractive male and/or female facial features. (courtesy of Dr. Victor Johnston)

It’s even more difficult to comprehend how thoroughly human pheromones affect our behavior because we are not aware of their affects. We think about what we see, and — without thought — attribute attractive physical characteristics to our visual perception. In truth, however, we are very much like other animals. We know that they depend on their sense of smell for food choice and for mate choice. We are like other animals that don’t need to think about their choices. Neither do we –except that sometimes after-the-fact we may ask ourselves “What was I thinking?”

Pictures of food are visually appealing due to associations we make with the chemical appeal of the food. It wouldn’t look good if it didn’t smell good. Pictures of people are visually appealing due to unconscious associations we make with their chemical appeal.

Perhaps it’s easier to grasp this concept of odors and pheromones if you think about your food preferences. No matter how good it looks, if the aroma isn’t right, you’re not going to be interested in the food. And no matter how good someone looks, you’re not going to be interested in them if their scent signature is not right.

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