The relationship between olfactory function and emotional contagion

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Abstract

Introduction - Research has provided evidence for the transfer of single emotions including anger, anxiety and happiness through olfactory chemosignals, yet no work has examined the role of odour function in the aggregation of more complex emotional states or in the emotional contagion process. The aim of the present study was to ascertain whether an individual’s tendency to experience emotional aggregation was affected by objective measures of their olfactory function and subjective self-assessments of the importance of their own olfactory system.

Methods - In this study (N = 70), participant pairs were first assessed individually for olfactory threshold and odour identification, then completed the Importance of Olfaction Questionnaire. Each pair subsequently took part in two collaborative tasks. Individual emotion measures were taken before, during and after the completion of the two tasks.

Results - Multilevel structural equation modelling revealed that individuals’ within-dyad positive emotional agreement scores were associated with both their ‘importance of olfaction’ scores and their olfactory function. A significant association was also found between olfactory performance and the Importance of Olfaction scores.

Conclusions - These results provide evidence that the subjective importance an individual assigns to their sense of smell can predict their susceptibility to experience emotional aggregation during active, collaborative tasks.

Implications - The findings suggest that individuals’ tendency and capability to detect and respond to emotional chemosignals, a process required for olfactory-facilitated emotional contagion, may be affected by individual differences in olfactory function and subjective attitudes toward olfaction.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalChemosensory Perception
Early online date23 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 23 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Emotional contagion
  • Chemosignals
  • Threshold detection
  • Odour identifcation
  • Olfaction importance
  • UKRI
  • ESRC
  • ES/P000673/1

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