Effects of putative male pheromones on female ratings of male attractiveness: Influence of oral contraceptives and the menstrual cycle

Frances Thorne, Nick Neave, Andrew Scholey, Mark Moss, Bernhard Fink

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has revealed that natural and synthetic pheromones can enhance ratings of opposite sex attractiveness. The present study investigated the effects of exposure to male axillary secretions on female ratings of the sexual attractiveness of male stimuli. Thirty-two female undergraduates, half of whom were contraceptive pill users, rated male vignette characters and photographs of male faces on aspects of attractiveness. On two separate study days, corresponding to different phases of their menstrual cycle, stimuli were presented while exposed to male axillary pheromones and under a control condition (no pheromone). The order of testing was balanced with respect to pheromone/control condition and menstrual cycle phase. Pheromone exposure resulted in significantly higher attractiveness ratings of vignette characters and faces. Use of the contraceptive pill or menstrual cycle phase had equivocal effects on some vignette items and neither had any influence on female ratings of male facial attractiveness. The results of this study suggest that exposure to natural male axillary pheromones can significantly enhance female perceptions of various aspects of male attractiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-297
Number of pages7
JournalNeuroendocrinology Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Human
  • Mate preferences
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Oral contraception
  • Pheromone
  • Sexual attraction

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