What Your Sweat Reveals About You

Amanda Chan
·Deputy Editor

Sweat isn’t just stinky! (Photo: Getty Images)

A whiff of a person’s sweat could give clues to his or her happiness, new research suggests.

The small study, published in the journal Psychological Science, shows that chemosignals in sweat are produced when we feel happy, and these chemosignals can be sensed by others.

“This suggests that somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness,” study researcher Gün Semin, a psychological scientist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, says in a statement. “In a way,  happiness sweat is somewhat like smiling — it is infectious.”

Twelve men were included in the first part of the study. They provided sweat samples to researchers by coming into a lab, rinsing and drying their armpits, and then having absorbent pads attached to their armpits. Then, they put on a pre-washed shirt before undertaking a series of tasks, including watching an emotion-arousing video clip and doing a test where they had to measure how pleasant or unpleasant they found certain Chinese symbols.

Then, the researchers removed the absorbent pads from the participants’ armpits, and put them in vials.

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In the second part of the study, 36 women were seated and put their chins in chin rests. At the chin rests were the vials containing the sweat samples from the men; the women were blind to what kind of “emotion” each vial held. In other words, they were not informed of whether the sweat sample was from a man who experienced fear, happiness, or a neutral emotion.

Researchers examined the women’s facial expressions in response to sniffing the vials. They found that when the women sniffed the vials of sweat from the men who experienced fear, there was greater activity in the women’s medial frontalis muscle, which is typical in fear expressions. And when the women sniffed the vials of men’s sweat from when they experienced happiness, the women showed greater activity in the muscle that indicates a Duchenne smile (indicative of happiness).

While the study was small and the findings are considered preliminary, the researchers noted this is evidence that chemosignals in sweat are able to convey emotions.

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