NCBI ROFL: Smells like safe sex: olfactory pathogen primes increase intentions to use condoms.

By ncbi rofl | October 14, 2011 7:00 pm

Introduction: When ecological cues for pathogen threat are salient, cognitive and motivational systems appear to encourage myriad pathogen-avoidance behaviors (Ackerman et al., 2009; Faulkner, Schaller, Park, & Duncan, 2004; Mortensen, Becker, Ackerman, Neuberg, & Kenrick, 2010). Operating from the presumption that fundamental motivations to avoid pathogens can influence prophylactic behaviors, we aimed to test a novel hypothesis related to condom use: that ecological cues for the presence of pathogens would increase intentions to use condoms…

Method: At the beginning of the experimental session, an experimenter informed participants that pipes in the building were sporadically emitting unpleasant odors because of plumbing issues. Participants were then asked to leave the study room to drink at a nearby water fountain in preparation for providing a saliva sample. After returning, they completed a series of questionnaires on a laptop. … In the pathogen-prime condition, while participants were out of the room, the experimenter sprayed the wall of the room with a single pump of “Liquid ASS,” a novelty odor liquid that smells strongly of common bacterial threats (e.g., feces). In the control condition, the experimenter did not administer the spray. After returning from getting water, participants reported their intentions to purchase and use condoms over the next 6 months. Participants were asked to use a scale from 1 (not at all likely) to 7 (extremely likely) to rate the likelihood of their buying condoms, carrying condoms, discussing condoms with a sex partner, and using condoms during every event of sexual intercourse….

Results: An independent-samples t test demonstrated that participants in the pathogen-prime condition reported greater intentions to use condoms (M = 4.48, SD = 1.70) than did participants in the control condition (M = 3.74, SD = 1.85), t(97) = 2.06, p < .05, d = 0.42. The effect was identical across individuals who had and had not had sexual intercourse in the past year, F(1, 95) = 0.13, p = .72, and persisted after controlling for gender, SOI-R, and baseline condom attitudes, norms, and self-efficacy, t(92) = 2.03, p < .05, semipartial r = .17 (see Table 1).”

Photo: flickr/gotosira

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  • Anonymous

    I suspect condom manufacturers already knew this since they place vending machines in toilets still it suggests a novel method by which a woman might persuade her partner to use a condom though farting in bed cab hardly be considered an aphrodisiac!

  • Kevin T McCoy

    This is interesting that sex is connected to our smell. We should always practice safe sex and get std tested and regularly. and offer anonymous testing options. 


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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl


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