Smelling the Fear in Your Sweat

Can you smell the fear in your pits?  If you can’t, you better start to learn to control your frightened scent because some people know how to mark your sweat as a coward based solely on how much you stink.


Rice University has studied the effects of emotional smell signaling:

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. Given that more than one sense is typically involved when humans perceive information, Chen studied whether the smell of fear facilitates humans’ other stronger senses.

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.

Later, female volunteers were exposed to chemicals from the “fearful sweat” when they were fitted with a piece of gauze under their nostrils. They then viewed images of faces that morphed from happy to ambiguous to fearful. They were asked to indicate whether the face was happy or fearful by pressing buttons on a computer.

Exposure to the smell of fear biased women toward interpreting facial expressions as more fearful, but only when the expressions were ambiguous. It had no effect when the facial emotions were more discernible.

There is power in pheromones and sweat.

Your stink defines you.

Do you think our armpits have the ability to frighten and scare others, too?

Animals, when directly threatened with eating by another animal will urinate and defecate in order to take their taste of the mouth of a predator — and I wonder if we’re programmed the same way to pee our pants in the decision to flee or fight.

4 comments

  • Gordon Davidescu

    I know that I personally stink pretty badly when I work out or what not. You wouldn’t want to be next to me in an elevator. An ex of mine used to force me to shower immediately after Shabbos because she was so sensitive to the smell. I would be really interested in knowing what the difference is between “I’m afraid” stink and “Fear me!” and others.

  • Gordon!
    Thanks for sharing that story! Pretty wild. A man’s natural “stink” is supposed to have chemicals that are actually calming to women. Take a distressed woman, put her under your stinky arm, and in half an hour she feels better. That’s the theory at least! Good thing that woman is your ex instead of your now or you’d have a miserable smelly future together.
    I think you should look up some research on smells for us! That would make a fascinating and arresting article.

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