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Percept Mot Skills. 2000 Dec;91(3 Pt 1):771-81.

Human olfactory communication of emotion.

Author information

  • 1Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. xdchen@midway.uchicago.edu

Abstract

Nonhuman animals communicate their emotional states through changes in body odor. The study reported here suggests that this may be the same for humans. We collected underarm odors on gauze pads from 25 young women and men on two different occasions. On one occasion the donors were induced to feel happy by viewing an excerpt from a funny movie whereas on the other, separated by a day, they were induced to feel afraid by watching an excerpt from a frightening movie. One week later, 40 women and 37 men were asked to smell several different bottles, some of which contained underarm odor pads collected during the happy movie, some contained underarm odor pads collected during the frightening movie, whereas others contained unused pads (control odor). Each odor was identified on two separate tasks that involved identifying the odor from among three odors and identifying it again from among six odors. Data were the number of women and men who identified an odor correctly on both tasks. When asked to select which bottles contained "the odor of people when they are happy," women chose the correct bottles for both tasks significantly more often than chance. Men chose the bottle which contained the body odors collected when women (but not men) viewed the happy movie more often than would be expected by chance. When asked to select which bottles contained "the odor of people when they are afraid," women and men both chose the bottle that contained the body odors collected when men (but not women) viewed the frightening movie more often than would be expected by chance. The finding suggests that there is information in human body odors indicative of emotional state. This finding introduces new complexity in how humans perceive and interact.

PMID:
11153847
DOI:
10.2466/pms.2000.91.3.771
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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