Opposite ads for herbal concoctions promising longevity, a sharper wit and a brighter outlook on life, one glossy page of a popular magazine publicizes snake oil of the scientific age:
Add romance to your life. Spice up your existing relationship, or increase your potential for a new and exciting one with irresistible magnetism. Increase your attractiveness tenfold with Venus Pheromone Fragrance Additive.
This blurb is advertising a perfume that has been enhanced by scientists. Though it may not smell as divine as Chanel No. 5, this particular perfume does contain a love potion that is naturally produced by the human body. The makers exaggeratedly extol the bewitching power of this fragrance, but scientists admit that the added pheromones may give the wearer an increased sense of wellbeing.
What are pheromones, you ask? We all have seen the affect of pheromones on animals. A dog that pees on a fire hydrant is leaving pheromones behind to claim territory. A female dog in heat releases pheromones that will attract all male dogs living within a radius of several miles. Ants leave behind pheromones to mark a fast trail to an unsuspecting group of picnickers.
In our species, pheromones may be responsible for that 'physical chemistry' we experience with certain people. Pheromones are biochemicals that are secreted in our sweat and unconsciously perceived by tiny receptors in our nasal passages. These pheromones often 'carry' certain messages that elicit an unconscious response from others. Pheromones are responsible for the phenomenon of menstrual synchrony of girls that live together (in dormitories, for example). Pheromones also deliver messages about a person's sexual state and general health. Studies have shown that pheromones play a role in helping us choose a mate whose genetic resistance to disease complements our own. This serves the evolutionary purpose of ensuring healthy children. Though this research has exciting implications about the power of our unconscious primitive minds, pheromones represent only the very tip of the human attraction iceberg.