A new study finds that humans can sniff out fear and disgust, and that a whiff of either scent can trigger the same emotion in another's brain. "These findings are contrary to the commonly accepted assumption that human communication runs exclusively via language or visual channels," said Gün Semin and colleagues from Utrecht University in the Netherlands in a statement.
In new research published Monday in the journal Psychological Science, researchers tested the sweaty armpits of 10 men while they watched films such as The Shining or gross-out scenes from MTV's television series Jackass.
Next, the researchers asked 36 women to take a visual search test while they unknowingly inhaled the chemosignals of the men's sweat. Their facial expressions were recorded and their eye movements were tracked as they completed the task. When sniffing the fear sweat, the women opened their eyes widely in a fearful expression. A sniff of sweat from men who were disgusted and the women grimaced as if in disgust.
But this isn't the first reseach to claim that humans can smell fear. Back in 2008, another study discovered that chemical signals emitted by the body in sweat when one is frightened can be picked up by other humans and trigger the same emotion in their brains. Researchers from Stony Brook University in New York taped absorbent pads to the armpits of volunteers about to sky-dive for the first time and had a crew of volunteers sniff the samples later to see how they responded.