Flashback Friday: Want to feel happier? Just smell a happy person’s BO!

By Seriously Science | April 14, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/littlelovemonster

Photo: flickr/littlelovemonster

Smelling someone’s stinky body odor can really bum you out, at least temporarily. But did you know that BO can communicate emotions directly? According to this study, human body odor may contain chemicals, also known as “chemosignals”, that can carry information about emotional states. To test this hypothesis, the researchers evoked emotions in 12 men by showing them movie clips to make them either happy (e.g., “Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book), afraid (e.g., clips from Schindler’s List and Scream 2), or neutral (e.g., American weather forecasts). During each condition, the researchers collected sweat from the shaved armpits of the subjects. Later, they asked female subjects to smell the sweat samples, and they measured electrical impulses produced by facial muscles to track the women’s facial expressions. Turns out that women smelling the “happy sweat” had happier expressions (including smiles) compared with those smelling neutral or fearful sweat (the latter of which elicited a fearful expression). So there you have it — to get a boost of happiness, just find the happiest person in the room and take a whiff!

A Sniff of Happiness

“It is well known that feelings of happiness transfer between individuals through mimicry induced by vision and hearing. The evidence is inconclusive, however, as to whether happiness can be communicated through the sense of smell via chemosignals. As chemosignals are a known medium for transferring negative emotions from a sender to a receiver, we examined whether chemosignals are also involved in the transmission of positive emotions. Positive emotions are important for overall well-being and yet relatively neglected in research on chemosignaling, arguably because of the stronger survival benefits linked with negative emotions. We observed that exposure to body odor collected from senders of chemosignals in a happy state induced a facial expression and perceptual-processing style indicative of happiness in the receivers of those signals. Our findings suggest that not only negative affect but also a positive state (happiness) can be transferred by means of odors.”

Related content:
Flashback Friday: Study proves “old person smell” is real.
People can sniff out criminals…literally.
Study finds that like yawning, sniffing is contagious.

  • OWilson

    Could it be a vestigial echo from our mammalian ancestors with sharper senses than we possess today, who could perhaps alert the herd of danger, by the scent fearful sweating, or attract a mate by happy sweat?

    • teknowh0re


      Its sadly just a group of scientists watching women make faces when they smell stinky BO (stress sweat is KNOWN to smell much worse than exercise sweat for examply), and making up stories about how there are “chemicals in sweat that transmit feelings”.

  • teknowh0re

    THIS DOESNT show evidence of “emotions being transmiited through sweat” you dinguses…maybe on a VERY very basic level but not in the way they suggest in this article.
    We already know from decades of scientific study that peoples sweat and therefore BO smell BAD and worse the more stressed out they are, and the more fearful or upset they are.

    Therefore, when women smell the BO and make a “face” in reaction to it…Seriously science are you really making this ridiculous connection that isnt there?…so they are not having an emotion TRANSMITTED TO THEM…it just smells gross, so they are grimacing. This is NOT the same thing as “transmitting an emotion via chemicals in the sweat”.

    Seriously, science is the perfect category for this.
    Not only will it not GIVE you the emotional experience by smelling it, its not even “transmitting” anything. Its just a study where they took down data about a grimace women made because they smelled extra stinky BO.


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Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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