The Smell of Fear is Strong

Expose someone to the smell of fear, and it increases their own fear. At least, that’s what a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests.

First of all, where does one get the smell of fear? Well, researchers exposed a group of men to scary film clips and then collected their armpit sweat. It’s just that easy!

Then, researchers had a group of thirty women (women have a better sense of smell) watch either neutral or scary film clips, consisting of men either talking to or assaulting women. While they watched, the women were exposed to either a neutral smell or the aforementioned smell of fear. The women couldn’t consciously tell the difference between the two odours.

However, when presented with the smell of fear, the women adopted fearful expressions, even when watching a neutral clip (hilarious side note: expressions were measured by electrodes on the women’s faces, so not only can you bottle fear, you can measure it!). Watching a scary clip with a neutral odour also produced fearful expressions, and watching a scary clip with the smell of fear increased the intensity of the women’s fearful expressions.

So, here’s the takeaway: your date can smell your fear. Also, Eli Roth is probably going to start bottling this smell of fear stuff.


Photo courtesy of Josh McGinn

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