Tag Archives: Judgments

Freaky Friday: You Smell Ugly*

by Richard

Humans (thankfully for those of us who live in a household full of teenaged boys) have a really lousy sense of smell. I mean, sharks can smell a drop of blood a mile away. Bloodhounds can track a days-old trail through swamps and over rivers. We can’t even tell who cut the cheese in a crowded room. Or whatever.

Turns out, that might be a bit of a blessing.

Especially if you’re not Brad Pitt. And, other than the Pitt-ster himself, who is?

What I’m talking about this is, of course, science! According to some relatively recent research, smelling bad makes you look ugly. Sort of.

“We report an experiment designed to investigate whether olfactory cues can influence people’s judgments of facial attractiveness. Sixteen female participants judged the attractiveness of a series of male faces presented briefly on a computer monitor using a 9-point visual rating scale. While viewing each face, the participants were simultaneously presented with either clean air or else with 1 of 4 odorants (the odor was varied on a trial-by-trial basis) from a custom-built olfactometer. We included 2 pleasant odors (geranium and a male fragrance) and 2 unpleasant odors (rubber and body odor) as confirmed by pilot testing.”

Firstly, rubber smells bad? News to me, I guess.

More importantly, though, what the researchers found was that, in the presence of the unpalatable odors, participants found the pictures of the various men to be significantly less attractive.

“The results showed that the participants rated the male faces as being significantly less attractive in the presence of an unpleasant odor than when the faces were presented together with a pleasant odor or with clean air (these conditions did not differ significantly). These results demonstrate the cross-modal influence that unpleasant odors can have on people’s judgments of facial attractiveness. Interestingly, this pattern of results was unaffected by whether the odors were body relevant (the body odor and the male fragrance) or not (the rubber and geranium odors).”

This has a lot of implications, especially for the aforementioned teenaged boys.

Sarcasmo is a young dude who is aggressively anti-popular. What I mean by that is that, rather than take a chance at rejection, he makes sure to indulge in activities or behavior that will make sure folks don’t think he’s trying to be popular. That way, if someone doesn’t like him, it’s not him they don’t like, but, rather, the behaviors in which he’s consciously engaging.

Which is my long-winded way of saying we have to make sure he wears deodorant. When we forget to remind him. . . Well, let’s just say even we, as parents, don’t want to hug the young dude.

Anyway, I think this might prove to be an actual incentive for him to wear the deodorant more often. And maybe even a touch of cologne. Smell better and folks think you’re better looking. A pretty easy bit of advice to follow.

The only question now is if it will actually penetrate that teenage force field of “I know everything and you’re an idiot” surrounding the young dude.

*Notice the difference if I’d put a comma between smell and ugly. Were it there, I’d be calling you (well, not you) ugly. No comma and I’m saying it’s an ugly smell. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be reading grammar books for fun.

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Freaky Friday: Smile When You Read That

by Richard

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone. Trite but true. Seriously. It’s scientifically documented. Well, except for the cry alone part.

It’s been well-documented that watching someone smile will lead to the watchers also smiling. The same goes for watching frowns. What one does when the Joker is standing in front of you, I’m not sure. I mean, that’s one disturbing smile-ish thing. Anyway.

Now, the newest research shows that it’s not just smiling and frowning that will cause us to move our lips. We can also be encouraged to smile or frown when we read about it.

In the first experiment, a group of students read a series of emotion verbs (e.g., “to smile,” “to cry”) and adjectives (e.g., “funny,” “frustrating”) on a monitor, while the activity of their zygomatic major (the muscle responsible for smiles) and corrugator supercilii (which causes frowns) muscles were measured.

The results showed that reading action verbs activated the corresponding muscles. For example, “to laugh” resulted in activation of the zygomatic major muscle, but did not cause any response in the muscles responsible for frowning. Interestingly, when presented with the emotion adjectives like “funny” or “frustrating” the volunteers demonstrated much lower muscle activation compared to their reactions to emotion verbs. The researchers note that muscle activity is “induced in the reader when reading verbs representing facial expressions of emotion.”

Not only that, but these apparently involuntary responses can also effect our judgment.

The results of these experiments reveal that simply reading emotion verbs activates specific facial muscles and can influence judgments we make. The researchers note these findings suggest that “language is not merely symbolic, but also somatic,” and they conclude that “these experiments provide an important bridge between research on the neurobiological basis of language and related behavioral research.”

Now this is news I could use. I think I’m going to start buying stock in post-it notes because I’m going to be using a lot of them. I’m going to post lots of smiling action verbs all over the house. I figure I might have found the silver bullet to slay teenage angst. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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