Smelling Anxiety Chemosignals Impairs Clinical Performance of Dental Students


Despite the fact that human body odors can transfer anxiety-related signals, the impact of such signals in real-life situations is scant. In this study, the effects of anxiety chemosignals on the performance of dental students operating on simulation units, wearing T-shirts imbued with human sweat and masked with eugenol were tested. A total of 24 fourth-year dental students (17 F) donated their body odors in two sessions (Anxiety and Rest). Twenty-four normosmic, sex- and age-matched test subjects who were third-year dental students performed 3 dental procedures while smelling masked anxiety body odors, masked rest body odors, or masker alone.The intensity and pleasantness ratings showed that the test subjects could not report perceptual differences between the odor conditions. When exposed to masked anxiety body odors, the test subjects' dental performance was significantly worse than when they were exposed to masked rest body odors and masker alone, indicating that their performance was modulated by exposure to the emotional tone of the odor. These findings call for a careful evaluation of the anxiety-inducing effects of body odors in performance-related tasks and provide the first ecological evaluation of human anxiety chemosignal communication.

Chemical Senses, 43, pp. 413-427
Valentina Parma
Valentina Parma
Research Assistant Professor in Psychology