Navigation Links
Subliminal smells bias perception about a person's likeability

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Anyone who has bonded with a puppy madly sniffing with affection gets an idea of how scents, most not apparent to humans, are critical to a dogs appreciation of her two-legged friends. Now new research from Northwestern University suggests that humans also pick up infinitesimal scents that affect whether or not we like somebody.

We evaluate people every day and make judgments about who we like or dont like, said Wen Li, a post-doctoral fellow in the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimers Disease Center at Northwesterns Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study. We may think our judgments are based only on various conscious bits of information, but our senses also may provide subliminal perceptual information that affects our behavior.

Subliminal Smells Can Guide Social Preferences was published in the December issue of Psychological Science. Besides Li, the studys co-investigators include Isabel Moallem, Loyola University; Ken Paller, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern; and Jay Gottfried, assistant professor of neurology at Feinberg and senior author of the paper.

Minute amounts of odors elicited salient psychological and physiological changes that suggest that humans get much more information from barely perceptible scents than previously realized.

To test whether subliminal odors alter social preferences, participants were asked to sniff bottles with three different scents: lemon (good), sweat (bad) and ethereal (neutral). The scents ranged from levels that could be consciously smelled to those that were barely perceptible. Study participants were informed that an odor would be present in 75 percent of the trials.

Most participants were not aware of the barely perceptible odors. After sniffing from each of the bottles, they were shown a face with a neutral expression and asked to evaluate it using one of six different rankings, ranging from extremely likeable to extremely unlikeable.

People who were slightly better than average at figuring out whether the minimal smell was present didnt seem to be biased by the subliminal scents.

The study suggests that people conscious of the barely noticeable scents were able to discount that sensory information and just evaluate the faces, Li said. It only was when smell sneaked in without being noticed that judgments about likeability were biased.

The conclusions fit with recent studies using visual stimuli that suggest that top-down control mechanisms in the brain can be exerted on unconscious processing even though individuals have no awareness of what is being controlled.

When sensory input is insufficient to provoke a conscious olfactory experience, subliminal processing prevails and biases perception, Paller said. But as the awareness of a scent increases, greater executive control in the brain is engaged to counteract unconscious olfaction.

The acute sensitivity of human olfaction tends to be underappreciated. In general, people tend to be dismissive of human olfaction and discount the role that smell plays in our everyday life, said Gottfried. Our study offers direct evidence that human social behavior is under the influence of miniscule amounts of odor, at concentrations too low to be consciously perceived, indicating that the human sense of smell is much keener than commonly thought.

The study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that subliminal sensory information -- whether from scents, vision or hearing -- affects perception. We are beginning to understand more about how perception and memory function, Paller said, by taking into account various types of influences that operate without our explicit knowledge.


Contact: Pat Vaughan Tremmel
Northwestern University

Related medicine news :

1. Parents perceptions can hamper kids asthma care, study finds
2. Area deep within the brain found to play role in sensory perception
3. Study Offers Insights Into Sensory Perceptions
4. Psychiatrists, parents significantly differ in ADHD, psychiatric comorbidities perceptions
5. Parents survey: Perceptions of the duration of their childs ADHD medication
6. Competition Affects Your Perception of Your Paycheck
7. Donate Life America Dispels Myths About Organ & Tissue Donation Among Hispanics During National Hispanic Heritage Month
8. Researchers estimate about 9 percent of US children age 8 to 15 meet criteria for having ADHD
9. New Survey Shows Americans are Still Concerned About Food Safety, Yet Still Not Smart About What They Like to Eat
10. The Philadelphia Walk Now for Autism Expected to Draw 10,000 Walkers and Raise $1 Million to Help Find Answers About the Nations Fastest-Growing Developmental Disorder
11. One of the Largest Post-WHI Physician Surveys Shows More Education is Needed: Patient Misinformation About Hormone Therapy Remains High
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/26/2016)... Charlotte, NC (PRWEB) , ... June 26, 2016 , ... Brent Kasmer, a legally blind ... able to be personalized through a fitness app. The fitness app plans to fix the ... solutions currently only offer a one size fits all type program , They ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... Austin residents seeking Mohs surgery ... of Mohs Surgery and to Dr. Russell Peckham for medical and surgical dermatology. , ... for skin cancer. The selective fellowship in Mohs Micrographic Surgery completed by Dr. Dorsey ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... , ... June 25, 2016 , ... First Choice ... States, named Dr. Sesan Ogunleye, as the Medical Director of its new Mesquite-Samuell Farm ... Medical Director of our new Mesquite location,” said Dr. James M. Muzzarelli, Executive Medical ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... ... On Friday, June 10, Van Mitchell, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health ... of their exemplary accomplishments in worksite health promotion. , The Wellness at Work Awards ... at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum Heights. iHire was one of 42 businesses to ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... , ... Those who have experienced traumatic events may suffer from a complex ... as drug or alcohol abuse, as a coping mechanism. To avoid this pain and ... a traumatic event. , Trauma sufferers tend to feel a range of emotions, from ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/26/2016)... Story Highlights: ... the health care industry is causing providers to review ... Deloitte offers a suite of solutions for health care ... cost optimization: labor resource analysis, revenue cycle optimization and ... outcomes and better economics ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 2016  Collagen Matrix, Inc., ("Collagen Matrix") the ... of collagen and mineral based medical devices for ... Bill Messer has joined the company as ... the growing portfolio of oral surgery, neurosurgery, orthopaedic ... joins the Collagen Matrix executive team as an ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 2016   Bay Area Lyme Foundation , ... Center for Tick Borne Illness , Harvard Medical ... Hacking Medicine, University of California, Berkeley, and the ... five finalists of Lyme Innovation , the ... 100 scientists, clinicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors from ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: