The Smell Of Fear: Fact or Fiction?

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Can you really smell fear? Do we give off chemical signals that attract the opposite sex?

Scientists generally accept that pheromones, those chemical signals that some secrete to influence others of the same species, exist in the insect world.

But do humans communicate through chemistry too?

There's growing evidence that humans respond to some type of chemical-- whether the chemicals triggering reactions are  pheromones is still up for debate.

"We may be communicating in other ways-- chemical compounds in sweat, and chemical compounds in tears- not all of those fit the classic definition of pheromone," Pulitzer-Prize-winning science writer Deborah Blum told Here and Now's Monica Brady-Myerov.

Blum says that research shows that babies recognize the smell of their mother's perspiration, people can smell anxiety or agitation in the sweat of their partners (and get better at it, the longer they have been in a relationship) and when men smell women's tears their testosterone levels fall.


  • Deborah Blum, science journalist and author of The Poisoner’s Handbook

This segment aired on December 23, 2011.


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