Effects of Pheromones – Women’s tears are a turn off for men?

It’s natural not be aroused when you see any one in tears. The emotional feelings aroused when someone is crying is strong enough to prevent us from any feeling other than sympathy and compassion. That’s to be expected. However, there may be a more scientific reason – one that’s related to pheromones.
This article in NYT is very interesting. This may explain why humans unlike any other species, actually cry and shed tears.

In several experiments, researchers found that men who sniffed drops of women’s emotional tears became less sexually aroused than when they sniffed a neutral saline solution that had been dribbled down women’s cheeks. While the studies were not large, the findings showed up in a variety of ways, including testosterone levels, skin responses, brain imaging and the men’s descriptions of their arousal.

“Chemical signaling is a form of language,” said one of the researchers, Dr. Noam Sobel, a professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. “Basically what we’ve found is the chemo-signaling word for ‘no’ — or at least ‘not now.’ ”

Dr. Sobel said he believed that men’s tears would also turn out to transmit chemical signals, perhaps serving to reduce aggression in other men.

Dr. Sobel said the researchers started with women because when they advertised for “volunteers who can cry with ease,” they could not find men who were “good criers,” readily able to fill collection vials. Fortunately, he said, “we have a male crier now.”

Robert R. Provine, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who has studied crying, said the discovery was “a really big deal” because “emotional tears are a very important evolutionary development in humans as a social species,” and this “may be evidence of another human pheromone.”

Many questions remain, including whether the results can be replicated by other researchers, what substance could comprise the chemical signal and whether it is perceived through the nose or another way.

Why women’s tears would send a message of “not tonight, dear” is puzzling. Some experts suggested the tears could have evolved to reduce men’s aggression toward women who are weakened by emotional stress. The studies did not measure the effect on aggression, although future research might, Dr. Sobel said. Another thought, he said, is that the effect of tears evolved in part to coincide with menstrual cycles.

The researchers accidentally happened upon the evidence that women’s tears make men feel as if they have taken a cold shower.

They had assumed chemical signals from tears would trigger sadness or empathy in others. But initial experiments found that sniffing women’s tears did not affect men’s mood or empathy, but “had a pronounced influence on sexual arousal, a surprise,” Dr. Sobel said.

As a control, researchers trickled saline down the women’s faces, also collecting that in vials. Tears and saline were dribbled onto pads that were then affixed below men’s nostrils to approximate a hug with a teary woman. The men, in their late 20s, each sniffed tears one day and saline another day, without knowing which was which.

In one experiment, tear-sniffing made the men more likely to rate women in photographs as less sexually attractive. In another, to establish a context of sadness, men watched a scene from the movie “The Champ” after sniffing tears or saline. Sniffers became equally sad with both tears and saline, but tear-sniffers showed reduced sexual arousal and lower levels of testosterone.

Finally, the researchers turned to brain imaging. They showed men scenes from “9 ½ Weeks” — specifically the more explicit version that was shown in Europe, which, Dr. Sobel said, “has been validated as being particularly arousing.” Functional M.R.I. scans identified the men’s arousal in specific brain areas. Then they sniffed tears or saline and watched sad movies. The tear-sniffers showed less activity in the brain regions that reflected arousal.

William H. Frey II, a biochemist who showed that the chemical composition of emotional tears is different from that of reflexive tears, like when peeling an onion, said he was “thrilled to death to see somebody doing something on the chemistry of emotional tears.” He said the results could be compatible with his theory that crying involves shedding stress-related toxins.

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