Visual Encyclopedia

Pheromone

A pheromone (from Ancient Greek φέρω phero "to bear" and hormone, from Ancient Greek ὁρμή "impetus") is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting like hormones outside the body of the secreting individual, to impact the behavior of the receiving individuals. There are alarm pheromones, food trail pheromones, sex pheromones, and many others that affect behavior or physiology. Pheromones are used from basic unicellular prokaryotes to complex multicellular eukaryotes. Their use among insects has been particularly well documented. In addition, some vertebrates, plants and ciliates communicate by using pheromones.

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Handshaking is a chemical greeting

Humans surprisingly use smell to greet each other. Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute of Science conducted an experiment to test the number of times that participants brought their hands to their faces after they had or had not shaken hands with a researcher. People who had been greeted with a handshake were more likely to bring their hand toward their face and nose than those who had not had a handshake. In this way, Sobel predicts that pheromones are being exchanged.

Contributed by Katlyn Powers

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