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  1. Peter W. Sorensen

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0676

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Sorensen, P. W. 2010. Pheromones. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. University of Minnesota

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Forty years ago, Karlson and Lüscher (1959) coined the term pheromone to describe chemicals that are “excreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species in which they release a specific reaction.” They created this term for bombykol, the first conspecific attractant to be identified in an insect (the silkworm). Since the structure elucidation of this long-chain alcohol, hundreds of pheromones have been identified, and it is now commonly accepted that most animals (with the possible exception of birds and marine mammals) use chemicals released by conspecifics to mediate various social interactions. Frequently, these conspecific chemicals are found in precise mixtures that are discerned at very low concentrations with great specificity, sometimes exerting subtle effects that seem to go beyond the original definition (e.g., kin recognition). Nevertheless, the term pheromone remains in common usage, and it is now used to describe almost any chemical cue that mediates intraspecies communication and to which organisms are predisposed to respond.


  • communication within species;
  • odors;
  • olfactory system;
  • signal behavior