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Subliminal smells bias perception about a person's likeability
Date:12/6/2007

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, r
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Contact: Pat Vaughan Tremmel
p-tremmel@northwestern.edu
847-491-4892
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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