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Pheromones 101: All of Your Questions Answered

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Anyone who has attempted dating over the past few years and has done a bit of research on the topic has probably come across the term pheromones.


Pheromones are often mentioned as magical, mystical compounds that can immediately attract a partner.

Obviously, many of these claims are far-fetched in an attempt to sell pheromone perfumes. While the science is there, we still have to learn a lot about pheromones. In addition, a chemical signal obviously isn't enough to attract and marry the man of your life.

So what exactly are pheromones and is the hype justified? We're on a mission to find the answers to these questions today.

What Are Pheromones and How Are They Released?

Highly interested in romantic chemistry, I started working on the basics first.

It doesn't get any more basic than answering the question what the heck are pheromones?

Reputable sources suggest that pheromones are chemicals that animals, including humans, produce. They're somewhat similar to hormones. The main difference between the two is that hormones work internally on an organism while pheromones work externally on another being.

This is the reason why pheromones are classified as ectohormones or external hormones.

Pheromones have several very important functions in the animal kingdom. These include:

  • Signaling a food trail to other members of the herd or pack
  • Signaling danger
  • Triggering sexual arousal and attraction
  • Marking the territory of one male
  • Warning other animals to back off from a specific area
  • Strengthening the bond between mom and baby

Most of these don't really affect humans. The one function of pheromones we're all interested in is sexual arousal.

How exactly does it work?

Pheromones are released from various glands. In mammals, these are modified skin glands located in different parts of the body. In some instances, pheromones could be produced by internal organs.

Once released, these chemical signals have to be detected by another creature to produce the desired result.

In humans, the organ responsible for that function is the vomeronasal organ (VNO). Also called Jacobson's organ, VNO is located in the nose and it sends signals directly to the hypothalamus in the brain.

The VNO consists of pits but research suggests that it largely atrophies before birth (regardless of the fact that the VNO appears like a functional organ in fetuses). Thus, researchers have concluded that the human VNO doesn't do an awful lot. When people respond, they're probably drawn to olfactory stimuli rather than pheromones.

The Role of Pheromones in Attraction

Imagine the following scenario. You text someone on DoULike. Both of you seem to be interested so you schedule a real-life date. You spritz on some pheromone perfume to bring the attraction to the next level. Should you anticipate immediate sparks?

Human pheromones were clearly detected by scientific teams in 1986 through the collection of underarm sweat. This research actually began in the 1970s to explain an interesting phenomenon.

The lead researcher Dr. Winifred Cutler and her team found out that women having sex regularly experienced more regular menstruation than those who didn't. Researchers concluded that the male sexual partners of these women brought something to the equation, helping for the stabilization of estrogen levels.

Eventually, researchers concluded that the male pheromones contributed to the previously inexplicable physiological occurrence.

Pheromones in the world of human sexual attraction, however, haven't been explained that well by science.

In fact, the scientific community hasn't reached a consensus about the ability of humans to secrete pheromones at all. While the role of such ectohormones has been clearly studied in mammals, there isn't a lot of evidence when it comes to human sexuality and attraction.

Companies producing pheromone compounds often quote clinical trials to boost sales. Many of these experiments, however, involve very small groups of people, they're not double-blind, placebo-controlled or peer-reviewed.

In 2015, University of Oxford zoologist Tristram Wyatt argued there is no scientific evidence for claiming human compounds released from skin glands are pheromones at all. Subsequent studies of compounds like androstenone and androstenol (two of the pheromones found most often in the composition of pheromone perfumes) found out these aren't effective in measurable way when it comes to promoting attraction.

Evidence is much more convincing of human pheromones that don't play a role in sexual attraction.

Menstrual synchronism, for example, is one actual phenomenon that can be explained through the secretion of chemical compounds.

In fact, researchers believe that such studies and the incredible effect can be used to develop natural fertility solutions for couples that want to conceive and even pheromone-based contraceptive for those who want to practice safe sex.

Based on all of this research, I reached a simple conclusion.

Do pheromones work to help you attract Mr. Right? Probably not! Can they be beneficial in other ways we're still unaware of? Most likely!

How Are Our Habits Affecting Pheromones

Keep in mind that even if we secrete pheromones, contemporary hygiene and personal hygiene habits are having a profound negative effect.

Much like sweat, pheromones are secreted from skin glands.

This means that the more washing you do, the more you're getting rid of the natural chemicals that are signaling important things to the rest of the world.

Should you stop showering, then?

I don't really believe that washing your body less often would do the trick. The way we live today, however, provides some additional information on why pheromones aren't really playing a major role in attraction.

Amplifying Pheromone Levels: Is That Even Possible?

Based on the previous section, it's obvious that one of the ways to amplify pheromone levels is to shower less often. For most people, however, this idea isn't going to deliver optimal results.

I decided to take a look at the pheromone perfumes and products advertised on multiple websites.

There have been several accounts written by people who decided to test out pheromone perfumes (check out this one and this one). While incredibly unscientific, these stories capture the experience of two people who bought into the hype.

Androstenone, androstenol and the other pheromones commonly featured in the composition of pheromone perfumes have only been studied on pigs. There is no evidence from human trials that they contribute to sexual arousal or attraction.

Some researchers believe that pheromone perfumes could have an indirect impact on desire.

Pleasant scents can elicit a pleasant emotional response. This response can eventually contribute to elevated interest in a person and sexual desire. Thus, people are responding to the scent of pheromone perfumes rather than the so-called sex hormones in the bottle.

What's the final verdict?

If you want people to like you, choose a nice perfume and shower more often.

There isn't any convincing and reputable evidence about the effectiveness of pheromones. Could our bodies produce such compounds? Probably. Are we capable of detecting pheromones through our VNO? That's a bit more questionable.

Buying into the hype will have you spending money on products you probably don't need.

Rather, focus on learning what you want from a partner, improving your communication skills and getting out there more. Have fun with dating and don't look for a secret potion that will make the magic happen. I definitely believe it takes a bit more than a chemical reaction to get the butterflies in your stomach.

4 Min Read
Business

Today, Companies Need to Retain Veteran Employees in Order to Survive and Thrive

In 2020, as the world turned on its axis, we all held on for dear life. Businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and entrepreneurs all braced for a new normal, not sure what it would mean, what would come next, or if we should be excited or terrified.

At the same time that everything is shifting, being put on hold, or expanding, companies have to evaluate current talent needs, empower their teams to work from home, discover new ways to care for clients from a distance, and navigate new levels of uncertainty in this unfamiliar environment. Through it all, civilians are being encouraged to lean into concepts like "resilience" and "courage" and "commitment," sometimes for the first time.

Let's contrast what the business community is going through this year with the common experience of the military. During basic training, officer candidate school, multiple deployments, combat, and reintegration, veterans become well-versed in resilience, courage, and commitment to survive and thrive in completing their mission. Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

More than ever before, today's employers who employ prior military should focus on why and how to retain them and leverage their talents, experience, and character traits to help lead the company — and the employees — to the other side of uncertainty.

What makes veterans valuable employees

Informed employers recognize that someone with a military background brings certain high-value assets into the civilian sector. Notably, veterans were taught, trained, and grounded in certain principles that make them uniquely valuable to their employers, particularly given the current business environment, including:

Leadership

It's been said that the United States Armed Forces is the greatest leadership institution in the world. The practices, beliefs, values, and dedication of those who serve make them tested leaders even outside of the military. Given the opportunity to lead, a veteran will step forward and assume the role. Asked to respect and support leadership, they comply with that position as well. Leadership is in the veteran's blood and for a company that seeks employees with the confidence and commitment to lead if called upon, a veteran is the ideal choice.

Commitment

The hope is that all employees are committed to their job and give 100% each day. For someone in the military, this is non-negotiable. The success of the mission, and the lives of everyone around them, depend on their commitment to stay the course and perform their job as trained. When the veteran employee takes on a project, it will be completed. When the veteran employee says there's an unsurmountable obstacle, it is so (not an excuse). When a veteran says they're "all in" on an initiative, they will see it through.

Strategy, planning, and improv

Every mission involves strategy, planning, and then improvisation from multiple individuals. On the battlefield, no plan works perfectly, and the service member's ability to flex, pivot, and adapt makes them valuable later, in the civilian sector. Imagine living in countries where you don't speak the language, working alongside troops who come from places you can't find on a map, and having to communicate what needs to get done to ensure everyone's safety. Veterans learned how to set goals, problem-solve challenges, and successfully get results.

Service

With an all-volunteer military for decades now, every man and woman who wore our nation's uniform raised their hand to do so. They chose to serve their country, their fellow Americans, and their leaders. These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

When companies seek out leaders who will commit to a bigger mission, can think strategically and creatively, and will serve others, they look to veterans.

Best practices in retention of veteran talent

Retention starts at hiring. The experience set out in the interview stage provides insight about how it will be to work and grow within the team at the company. For employers hiring veterans, this is a critical step.

Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent.

The veteran employee may have had a few — or several — jobs since leaving the military. Or this may be their first civilian work experience. In any case, setting expectations and being clear about goals is vital. Remember, veterans are trained to complete a mission and a goal. When an employer clarifies the mission and shows how the veteran employee's role supports and fulfills that mission, the employee can more confidently and successfully complete their work.

Additionally, regular check-ins are helpful with veteran employees. These employees may not be as comfortable asking for help or revealing their weaknesses. When the employer checks in regularly, and shows genuine interest in their happiness, sense of productivity, and overall job satisfaction, the veteran employee learns to be more comfortable asking for help when needed.

The military is a values-driven culture. Service members are instilled with values of loyalty, integrity, service, duty, and honor, to name a few. When they transition out of the military, veterans still seek a commitment to values in their employers. Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent. Make it clear what your values are, how you live and act on those values, and how the veteran's job will promote and support those values. Even work that is less glamorous can be attractive to a veteran if they understand the greater purpose and mission.

Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

Finally, leveraging the strengths and goals of any employee is critical, and particularly so with veterans. If you have an employee who is passionate about service, show them ways to give back — through mentoring, community engagement, volunteerism, etc. If your veteran continues to seek leadership roles, find opportunities for them to contribute at higher levels, even informally. When your veteran employee offers to reframe the team's mission to gain better alignment across the sector, give them some runway to experiment. You have a workforce that is trained and passionate about and skilled in adapting and overcoming. Let them do what they do best.