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The Great Pheromone Myth

, 296 pages

4 halftones, 14 line drawings

January 2010



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The Great Pheromone Myth

Mammalian pheromones, audiomones, visuomones, and snarks—Richard Doty argues that they all belong in the same category: objects of imagination.

For more than 50 years, researchers—including many prominent scientists—have identified pheromones as the triggers for a wide range of mammalian behaviors and endocrine responses. In this provocative book, renowned olfaction expert Richard L. Doty rejects this idea and states bluntly that, in contrast to insects, mammals do not have pheromones.

Doty systematically debunks the claims and conclusions of studies that purport to reveal the existence of mammalian pheromones. He demonstrates that there is no generally accepted scientific definition of what constitutes a mammalian pheromone and that attempts to divide stimuli and complex behaviors into pheromonal and nonpheromonal categories have primarily failed. Doty's controversial assertion belies a continued fascination with the pheromone concept, numerous claims of its chemical isolation, and what he sees as the wasted expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars by industry and government.

The Great Pheromone Myth directly challenges ideas about the role chemicals play in mammalian behavior and reproductive processes. It is a must-have reference for biologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, and readers interested in animal behavior, ecology, and evolution.

Richard L. Doty is a professor and director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania, inventor of the widely used UPSIT test for assessing smell function, and author or editor of over 350 scientific publications and books, including the Handbook of Olfaction and Gustation, Taste and Smell in Health and Disease, and, most recently, The Neurology of Olfaction, coauthored with Christopher Hawkes.

"Simply delightful reading. In a concise but totally convincing manner, Richard Doty sweeps away the pervasive mythology of pheromones."

"The field of mammalian pheromones is a bit sloppy and human pheromones a complete mess. This book will make a major contribution to the field by either galvanizing people to prove Doty wrong or applying brakes to a field that may be fast moving down the wrong track."

"Doty shakes up the field by challenging the sloppy research that some pheromone claims are based on."

"Richard Doty has set the standard through many years for smell function tests in humans. Here he performs a great service by turning his critical eye on the many claims for pheromone communication between animals. His book provides a thorough review of all the relevant literature, laying out the case against the evidence supporting pheromones in mammals, including humans. The book is written in an easily accessible manner. It will help investigators and the public alike understand our ignorance and misconceptions, and should stimulate renewed research to clarify this fascinating subject."

"A very thorough review of the literature on presumed mammalian pheromones."

"In this book, he brings together a wide-ranging and extensive literature to conclusively make his point. Along the way, he presents a fascinating tour of the diversity and complexity of chemical communication in mammals."

"More than a survey of pheromones, this considers the entire perspective of chemical effects on behavior and is a pick for any college-level health collection."

"If this book were just a critique of mammalian pheromones, it would be a valuable contribution. It, however, goes further showing us how the pheromone concept has blinded us to the complex and multimodal character of olfactory phenomena and perception."

" The Great Pheromone Myth is a lovely mural of important developmental questions and phenomena.The book is also an excellent guide to a field of inquiry, a conceptual framework, and an admirable product of scholarship. It offers much to professionals and advanced students in wide range of sensory, behavioral, ecological, physiological, and even clinical fields."

"This is an important book as it challenges simplistic thinking by forensically and systematically dissecting studies that purport to adduce the evidence for mammalian pheromones... The Great Pheromone Myth will undoubtedly engender considerable debate, a debate that is long overdue."

"When you read this book you are very likely to experience a shift from frustration to enlightenment. Far from thwarting your path to knowledge, Doty will remove some much neglected clutter and smooth the way to new understanding."

"The research of advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers will be improved if these workers carefully read the author's critiques of experimental design and research protocols."

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