Reproducible research into human semiochemical cues and pheromones: learning from psychology’s renaissance

As with other mammals, smell in the form of semiochemicals is likely to influence the behaviour of humans, as olfactory cues to emotions, health, and mate choice. A subset of semiochemicals, pheromones, chemical signals within a species, have been identified in many mammal species. As mammals, we may have pheromones too. Sadly, the story of molecules claimed to be ‘putative human pheromones’ is a classic example of bad science carried out by good scientists. Much of human semiochemicals research including work on ‘human pheromones’ and olfactory cues comes within the field of psychology. Thus, the research is highly likely to be affected by the ‘reproducibility crisis’ in psychology and other life sciences. Psychology researchers have responded with proposals to enable better, more reliable science, with an emphasis on enhancing reproducibility. A key change is the adoption of study pre-registration which will also reduce publication bias. Human semiochemicals research would benefit from adopting these proposals.