Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Humans Can Sense 'Smell Of Fear' In Sweat, Psychologist Says

Date:
March 8, 2009
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
When threatened, many animals release chemicals as a warning signal to members of their own species, who in turn react to the signals and take action. New research suggests a similar phenomenon occurs in humans.

Human sweat may convey emotional meanings such as fear, new research shows.
Credit: iStockphoto/Joshua Blake

When threatened, many animals release chemicals as a warning signal to members of their own species, who in turn react to the signals and take action. Research by Rice University psychologist Denise Chen suggests a similar phenomenon occurs in humans.

Related Articles


Given that more than one sense is typically involved when humans perceive information, Chen studied whether the smell of fear facilitates humans’ other stronger senses.

Chen and graduate student Wen Zhou collected “fearful sweat” samples from male volunteers. The volunteers kept gauze pads in their armpits while they were shown films that dealt with topics known to inspire fear.

Later, female volunteers were exposed to chemicals from the "fearful sweat” when they were fitted with a piece of gauze under their nostrils. They then viewed images of faces that morphed from happy to ambiguous to fearful. They were asked to indicate whether the face was happy or fearful by pressing buttons on a computer.

Exposure to the smell of fear biased women toward interpreting facial expressions as more fearful, but only when the expressions were ambiguous. It had no effect when the facial emotions were more discernable.

Chen’s conclusion is consistent with what’s been found with processing emotions in both the face and the voice. There, an emotion from one sense modulates how the same emotion is perceived in another sense, especially when the signal to the latter sense is ambiguous.

“Our findings provide direct behavioral evidence that human sweat contains emotional meanings,” Chen said. “They also demonstrate that social smells modulate vision in an emotion-specific way."

Smell is a prevalent form of social communication in many animals, but its function in humans is enigmatic. Humans have highly developed senses of sight and hearing. Why do we still need olfaction? Findings by Chen and Zhou offer insight on this topic. “The sense of smell guides our social perception when the more-dominant senses are weak,” Chen said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zhou et al. Fear-Related Chemosignals Modulate Recognition of Fear in Ambiguous Facial Expressions. Psychological Science, 2009; 20 (2): 177 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02263.x

Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Humans Can Sense 'Smell Of Fear' In Sweat, Psychologist Says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090306142536.htm>.
Rice University. (2009, March 8). Humans Can Sense 'Smell Of Fear' In Sweat, Psychologist Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090306142536.htm
Rice University. "Humans Can Sense 'Smell Of Fear' In Sweat, Psychologist Says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090306142536.htm (accessed March 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins