Disgust and fear lower olfactory threshold
Number of pages
SourceEmotion, 16, 5, (2016), pp. 740-749
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI SCP
SubjectBehaviour Change and Well-being
Odors provide information regarding the chemical properties of potential environment hazards. Some of this information may be disgust-related (e.g., organic decay), whereas other information may be fear-related (e.g., smoke). Many studies have focused on how disgust and fear, as prototypical avoidant emotions, facilitate the detection of possible threats, but these studies have typically confined to the visual modality. Here, we examine how disgust and fear influence olfactory detection at a particular level - the level at which a subliminal olfactory stimulus crosses into conscious perception, also known as a detection threshold. Here, using psychophysical methods that allow us to test perceptual capabilities directly, we show that one way that disgust (Experiments 1-3) and fear (Experiment 3) facilitate detection is by lowering the amount of physical input that is needed to trigger a conscious experience of that input. This effect is particularly strong among individuals with high disgust sensitivity (Experiments 2-3). Our research suggests that a fundamental way in which avoidant emotions foster threat detection is through lowering perceptual thresholds.
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