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.

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 September 18, 2014 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 September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. 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:
from the past week

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