Consumer & Behavioral Neuroscience

Is “fear” contagious? Chemosignals Communicate Human Emotions

Is “fear” contagious? Chemosignals Communicate Human Emotions

I new article just came out of Psychological Science:

Chemosignals Communicate Human Emotions

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.

I think this kind of research is just great.  And I was lucky enough to meet and listen to Dr. Monique Smeets at the ACHEMs meeting back in Spring earlier this year.

People have been interested in chemosignals or pheromones for some time now… can you make someone fall in love with you with your smell? Can you look more attractive? Smarter?  Fine fragrances is built on this idea.  And for good reason.

Fragrances and odors are highly linked to our emotions. Dr. Haviland-Jones has been studying this for some time. I’ve had the great opportunity to also meet and work with Jeanette.  Her work has demonstrated how the environment (ex: flowers and fragrance) can affect emotions.

New fragrances and ways of measuring their impact are developing all of the time. It’s clear that there is something there and that as more research emerges we may get closer and closer to being able to convey what we feel in the air with no words necessary.

So cool!

2 comments on “Is “fear” contagious? Chemosignals Communicate Human Emotions

  1. Ed M.
    November 12, 2012

    This is very interesting research. How was ACHEMs this year? Were there any standout topics you could highlight?

    • nerdoscientist
      November 12, 2012

      Thanks, Ed!
      Definitely some great presentations at ACHEMs. And that brings up a good idea about posting them.
      I have a ton of notes I could go through. I’ll try to get that up in the next week or so.
      Any interests in particular?

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