Can happiness be spread through smell of sweat?
Time to stop badmouthing sweat. According to research at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, our sweat contains chemicals—called chemosignals—and when we’re happy, our chemosignals can be spread to others nearby. The researchers say this happiness effect can be contagious, not unlike an infectious smile.
Past studies have suggested that chemical compounds in sweat can send negative emotions to others, But the researchers noted that few studies have looked at whether this is also true for positive emotions.
So they oversaw a double-blind experiment, including both men and women. First, the team had a group of men attach absorbent pads to their armpits and watch video clips that were supposed to produce one of three emotions: fear, happiness, or neutral. Then, the women were asked to smell a sweat sample of each type of emotion the men experienced. At the same time, the researchers analyzed their facial expressions to determine the emotions they felt as they smelled each sample.
The researchers found that women who smelled the “happy sweat” showed facial muscle activity associated with happy expressions. They also found that women exposed to happy sweat showed a “perceptual-processing style” commonly associated with happiness.
The team suggested that the odor industry could benefit from the study by applying the science of transferring happiness to others through chemical odors.