A sniff of happiness

Psychol Sci. 2015 Jun;26(6):684-700. doi: 10.1177/0956797614566318. Epub 2015 Apr 13.


It is well known that feelings of happiness transfer between individuals through mimicry induced by vision and hearing. The evidence is inconclusive, however, as to whether happiness can be communicated through the sense of smell via chemosignals. As chemosignals are a known medium for transferring negative emotions from a sender to a receiver, we examined whether chemosignals are also involved in the transmission of positive emotions. Positive emotions are important for overall well-being and yet relatively neglected in research on chemosignaling, arguably because of the stronger survival benefits linked with negative emotions. We observed that exposure to body odor collected from senders of chemosignals in a happy state induced a facial expression and perceptual-processing style indicative of happiness in the receivers of those signals. Our findings suggest that not only negative affect but also a positive state (happiness) can be transferred by means of odors.

Keywords: EMG; chemosignaling; communication; happiness; olfaction; open data; open materials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communication*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Pheromones, Human*
  • Self Report
  • Smell*
  • Young Adult


  • Pheromones, Human