Friday, August 7, 2009

The Smell of Fear

Ever wonder why ladies laugh at you, guy in the Farscape t-shirt? Maybe it's because they can smell your fear stink. According to a new study out of New York's Stony Brook University, humans can detect fear in each other's odor. They collected sweat from people in a fearful state of stress along with sweat from people who were totally chillaxed and wafted that sweat under the noses of volunteers hooked up to an fMRI scanner. The 'fraidy sweat produced a more emotional response than the laid back kind. The scary stuff also heightened the awareness of danger in the volunteers who smelled it. This kind of research contributes to the debate over whether humans are as guided by pheromones as animals. Previous research has shown we aren't, but studies like this have scientists rethinking that position. This isn't a definite study by any means, but it may be an important addition to the body of research on this topic. Also, it provides researchers with some much needed fun by allowing them to psychologically torture volunteers by putting them in bear cages and collecting their sweat. Or at least, I hope that's how they did it. More details here.