Monday, March 09, 2009

Mad science: The stench of fear.

From Science Daily, Rice U psych researcher Denise Chen claims that humans can smell fear in the sweat of other humans.

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. . .

"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."

I don't know what I find more interesting, the conclusion that human sweat contains olfactory data that can alter the cognitive performance of our other senses or the description of how a determined researcher can collect the sweat of scared people.

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.

This study follows on the heels of a previous study by Chen in which she found olfactory exposure to "fearful sweat" increased concentration and accuracy in language-based exercises.


The Igloo Keeper... said...

So the more nervous you get at your French language exam, the better you'll do? Hmmm. Interesting theory.

CRwM said...


I don't know if you get the same benefit from sniffing your own fear funk, so I think the safer way to think about it is that the more nervous your classmates get, the better your focus might be.

Sasquatchan said...

Funny, iggy brought up my point -- fear vs nervousness.. More than the general BO, nervous folk have a definite stink to them.. Find someone who hates giving presentations, and the BO when they're done talking is notably different from the "sweaty gym BO"..

CRwM said...

Okay Sassy,

You need to quit going around, sniffing up on people. I know you're just trying to be friendly, but other people find it disconcerting.

Shon Richards said...

If Denise Chen doesn't become the Scarecrow, I will be greatly disappointed.