Exposure to Male Sexual Scents (Androstenone) Influences Women’s Drinking

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Abstract

In a demonstration of a heretofore unknown motivational pathway for alcohol consumption, we recently showed that exposure to scents emitted by human females during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle could increase men’s drinking. The current study examined the reverse: whether exposure to male sexual scents (androstenone) would increase women’s drinking. One hundred three female participants were primed with either androstenone or a control prime (plain water) camouflaged as a men’s “cologne.” They then completed a laboratory assessment of beer consumption and related measures. (Nonalcoholic beer was used for methodological and safety reasons.) Results indicated that females exposed to the androstenone prime drank significantly more than those exposed to the control prime. Social and sexual expectancies taken subsequent to drinking (to avoid unwanted manipulation influences) were correlated with drinking in the primed group but not in the neutral group, supporting the idea that information-processing pathways related to alcohol use had been engaged in the primed group. Few females were ovulating, precluding assessment of the effects of fertility on this process. Because of the centrality of sexual signaling to fundamental evolutionary/biological forces, these results indicate a potentially powerful influence on alcohol consumption that calls for continued investigation.

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