The Gross Way Your Body Senses How A Guy Is REALLY Feeling

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Feeling great — and sweaty — after your morning barre class? Turns out, other people could be able to tell you're in a good mood, even if you don't say a word. New research suggests that others can pick up on your feelings with just a whiff of your sweat.

For the study, published online this week in Psychological Science and partially funded by Unilever, researchers first had nine heterosexual dudes sweat while watching clips meant to induce three different emotional states. For instance, a clip used to make them happier was the "Bare Necessities" scene from The Jungle Book, a fear-inducing clip was from the movie Se7en, and weather channel footage was used to create a neutral state. Sweat was collected throughout the clip-watching.

Then, a group of 35 heterosexual women had the unbelievably fortunate opportunity to sniff vials containing pieces of the sweaty pads collected during each of the emotional clip presentations. During and after smelling each vial, these women completed a variety of tasks that assessed their emotional state both explicitly (using questionnaires and association tasks) and implicitly (including analyses of facial expressions).

Results showed that the guys' sweat smells revealed a surprising amount of information about their emotional states — and the women may have picked up on that without even realizing. When smelling the "fear" sweat, the women's facial expressions were consistent with feeling scared, and if they got a whiff of the "happy" sweat, their involuntary smile muscles picked up. However, when directly asked about their own feelings, the women's answers showed no correlation to the sweaty smells they'd just inhaled. So, if anything, the signals here are subtle.

This idea of "chemosignaling" is still a complex and somewhat controversial one. Past research suggests that we are capable of learning things about other people from chemicals transmitted via scent — for example, a hint of lowered arousal from the scent of men's tears. However, the idea of a fast-acting love pheromone in humans is still fiction. So, we'll have to get by on our charm — for now.
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