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Psychol Sci. 2012;23(11):1417-24. doi: 10.1177/0956797612445317. Epub 2012 Sep 27.

Chemosignals communicate human emotions.

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Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.


Can humans communicate emotional states via chemical signals? In the experiment reported here, we addressed this question by examining the function of chemosignals in a framework furnished by embodied social communication theory. Following this theory, we hypothesized that the processes a sender experiences during distinctive emotional states are transmitted to receivers by means of the chemicals that the sender produces, thus establishing a multilevel correspondence between sender and receiver. In a double-blind experiment, we examined facial reactions, sensory-regulation processes, and visual search in response to chemosignals. We demonstrated that fear chemosignals generated a fearful facial expression and sensory acquisition (increased sniff magnitude and eye scanning); in contrast, disgust chemosignals evoked a disgusted facial expression and sensory rejection (decreased sniff magnitude, target-detection sensitivity, and eye scanning). These findings underline the neglected social relevance of chemosignals in regulating communicative correspondence outside of conscious access.

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