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Making scents of a partner’s feelings

Couples pick up on subtle differences in other half’s emotion-laden odors

By
2:02pm, May 31, 2010

BOSTON — Close romantic partners unknowingly smell each other’s feelings of happiness, fear and sexual arousal, according to a study presented on May 29 at the Association for Psychological Science annual convention.

“Familiarity with a partner enhances detection of emotional cues in that person’s smell,” said Denise Chen, a psychologist at Rice University in Houston.

Chen and her colleagues studied 20 heterosexual couples that had been living together, either married or unmarried, for one to seven years. Underarm pads collected sweat from participants as they watched videos that induced self-reported happiness, fear, sexual arousal or neutral feelings.

Volunteers then sniffed odors from four jars containing sweat from either the person’s partner or a stranger of the opposite sex. The participants tried to identify one smell that came from a person experiencing a particular feeling, such as happiness. One jar contained sweat

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