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The Scent of Blood: A Driver of Human Behavior?

Moran JK, Dietrich DR, Elbert T, Pause BM, Kübler L, Weierstall R - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: The results show that perceptual thresholds are unimodally distributed for both sexes, with women being more sensitive.Furthermore, both women and men's emotional responses to simulated blood scent divide strongly into positive and negative valence ratings, with negative ratings in women having a strong arousal component.For women, this split is related to the phase of their menstrual cycle and oral contraception (OC).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

ABSTRACT
The scent of blood is potentially one of the most fundamental and survival-relevant olfactory cues in humans. This experiment tests the first human parameters of perceptual threshold and emotional ratings in men and women of an artificially simulated smell of fresh blood in contact with the skin. We hypothesize that this scent of blood, with its association with injury, danger, death, and nutrition will be a critical cue activating fundamental motivational systems relating to either predatory approach behavior or prey-like withdrawal behavior, or both. The results show that perceptual thresholds are unimodally distributed for both sexes, with women being more sensitive. Furthermore, both women and men's emotional responses to simulated blood scent divide strongly into positive and negative valence ratings, with negative ratings in women having a strong arousal component. For women, this split is related to the phase of their menstrual cycle and oral contraception (OC). Future research will investigate whether this split in both genders is context-dependent or trait-like.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Valence vs. arousal scatterplots of simulated blood scent.Scatterplots for women (left) and men (right) showing relationship between scent valence ratings and arousal. Three zero scores for the whole sample, are removed from this graph.
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pone.0137777.g005: Valence vs. arousal scatterplots of simulated blood scent.Scatterplots for women (left) and men (right) showing relationship between scent valence ratings and arousal. Three zero scores for the whole sample, are removed from this graph.

Mentions: Arousal and valence typically form a U-shaped distribution, with extremes of valence showing higher arousal [4]. This was partially present in the ratings of simulated blood scent valence and arousal in women. See Fig 5 for scatterplots. We split the valence ratings into positive and negative groups (eliminating the N = 3 who gave a response of ‘0’) and conducted non-parametric Spearman Rank correlations, which demonstrated that women who disliked the simulated blood scent were more likely to have a strong high arousal response (rs = -0.62, p < 0.0001), whereas those who gave it a positive response did not show any correlation with arousal (rs = -0.04, p = 0.906). Men showed no such connection between valence and arousal, either in a positive (rs = -0.04, p = 0.869) or negative group (rs = 0.03, p = 0.904).


The Scent of Blood: A Driver of Human Behavior?

Moran JK, Dietrich DR, Elbert T, Pause BM, Kübler L, Weierstall R - PLoS ONE (2015)

Valence vs. arousal scatterplots of simulated blood scent.Scatterplots for women (left) and men (right) showing relationship between scent valence ratings and arousal. Three zero scores for the whole sample, are removed from this graph.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4580480&req=5

pone.0137777.g005: Valence vs. arousal scatterplots of simulated blood scent.Scatterplots for women (left) and men (right) showing relationship between scent valence ratings and arousal. Three zero scores for the whole sample, are removed from this graph.
Mentions: Arousal and valence typically form a U-shaped distribution, with extremes of valence showing higher arousal [4]. This was partially present in the ratings of simulated blood scent valence and arousal in women. See Fig 5 for scatterplots. We split the valence ratings into positive and negative groups (eliminating the N = 3 who gave a response of ‘0’) and conducted non-parametric Spearman Rank correlations, which demonstrated that women who disliked the simulated blood scent were more likely to have a strong high arousal response (rs = -0.62, p < 0.0001), whereas those who gave it a positive response did not show any correlation with arousal (rs = -0.04, p = 0.906). Men showed no such connection between valence and arousal, either in a positive (rs = -0.04, p = 0.869) or negative group (rs = 0.03, p = 0.904).

Bottom Line: The results show that perceptual thresholds are unimodally distributed for both sexes, with women being more sensitive.Furthermore, both women and men's emotional responses to simulated blood scent divide strongly into positive and negative valence ratings, with negative ratings in women having a strong arousal component.For women, this split is related to the phase of their menstrual cycle and oral contraception (OC).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

ABSTRACT
The scent of blood is potentially one of the most fundamental and survival-relevant olfactory cues in humans. This experiment tests the first human parameters of perceptual threshold and emotional ratings in men and women of an artificially simulated smell of fresh blood in contact with the skin. We hypothesize that this scent of blood, with its association with injury, danger, death, and nutrition will be a critical cue activating fundamental motivational systems relating to either predatory approach behavior or prey-like withdrawal behavior, or both. The results show that perceptual thresholds are unimodally distributed for both sexes, with women being more sensitive. Furthermore, both women and men's emotional responses to simulated blood scent divide strongly into positive and negative valence ratings, with negative ratings in women having a strong arousal component. For women, this split is related to the phase of their menstrual cycle and oral contraception (OC). Future research will investigate whether this split in both genders is context-dependent or trait-like.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus