Beyond the west: Chemosignaling of emotions transcends ethno-cultural boundaries

Jasper H.B. de Groot*, Lisanne A.E.M. van Houtum, Ilse Gortemaker, Yuting Ye, Wei Chen, Wen Zhou, Monique A.M. Smeets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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Accumulating evidence has pointed to a human capacity to communicate emotions to others via sweat. So far, these studies have relied exclusively on Western Caucasian samples. Our aim was to test whether the chemosensory communication of emotions extended beyond ethno-cultural boundaries, from Western Caucasians (N = 48) to East Asians (N = 48). To test this, we used well-validated materials and procedures, a double-blind design, a pre-registered analysis plan, and a combination of facial electromyography (EMG) and continuous flash suppression techniques to measure unconscious emotions. Our results show that East Asian (and Western Caucasian) female receivers exposed to the sweat (body odor) of fearful, happy, and neutral Western Caucasian male senders emulate these respective states based on body odors, outside of awareness. More specifically, East Asian (and Western Caucasian) receivers demonstrated significantly different patterns of facial muscle activity when being exposed to fear odor, happy odor, and neutral odor. Furthermore, fear odor decreased the suppression time of all faces on an interocular suppression task (IST), indicating subconscious vigilance, whereas happy odor increased the detection speed of happy faces. These combined findings suggest that the ability to perceive emotional signals from body odor may be a universal phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-185
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

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