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Is pheromone detection in sexual selection applicable to everyone? sexual orientation and its association with pheromone attraction to masculine features.

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Most traditional theories in the field of sexual selection generally imply a heterosexual bias when illustrating the biological functionality of sexual behaviour. It is suggested by several traditional theorists that attractive features are often advertisements for reproductive potential and benefits. Putative pheromones are said to be one of these physiological advertisements that indicate reproductive potential. This study aimed to replicate and expand on the “t-shirt” studies conducted by many authors, introducing the variable of sexual orientation and to note how the evolutionary theorised response to exposure of pheromones applies to all sexual orientations. The primary aim of this study was to assess whether sexual orientation affected individuals’ responses and judgements of human putative pheromones and if so, how individuals responded. A sample of 31 participants of different sexes and sexual orientations were asked to smell and rank t-shirts worn by six other male participants. Participants were also asked to provide rankings for the photographs of those same male respondents. Due to the small sample size and ordinal data, non-parametric tests were used to analyse the data, including the Friedman’s two-way ANOVA for ranked data, and the Kendall’s coefficient of concordance, to establish whether the participant groups ranked the stimuli concordantly. The results revealed that heterosexual men ranked the scent stimuli similarly to homosexual women, and that homosexual men ranked the scent stimuli similarly to heterosexual women. Furthermore, both sex and sexual orientation independently affected the rankings of the t-shirts but, however, did not affect the rankings of the visual stimulus. There is scope for future studies, due to the limited sample size and limitations within the study design.


Master of Social Science in Psychology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2016.