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Humans Can Smell Fear, Study Says

Update Date: Nov 09, 2012 07:15 AM EST

According to a recent study, just like dogs that can sense extreme emotions, humans can also smell fear, and their emotions are contagious.

The findings of a study that was published Nov. 5 in the journal Psychological Science suggest that humans communicate via smell just like other animals. They can smell fear and their emotions are also contagious.

"These findings are contrary to the commonly accepted assumption that human communication runs exclusively via language or visual channels," write Gün Semin and colleagues from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

It has been known for years that animals communicate with smell and scientists have believed for a very long time that since humans lacked the same odor-sensing organs, they had lost their ability to smell fear or other emotions. However, this new study has forced them to believe otherwise.

The study was conducted on 36 women whom researchers asked to take a visual test while they unknowingly inhaled the scent of men's sweat. When women sniffed the "fear sweat", they opened their eyes wide in a scared expression, while those smelling sweat from disgusted men scrunched their faces into a repulsed grimace.

The team chose men as the sweat donors and women as the receivers because past research suggests women are more sensitive to men's scent than vice versa.

The findings suggest that humans can communicate at least some emotions by smell, which could prove useful in crowded places, researchers said.

"Our research suggests that emotional chemo-signals can be potential contributors to emotional contagion in situations involving dense crowds," the authors write in the study.

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