The human body odor compound androstadienone leads to anger-dependent effects in an emotional Stroop but not dot-probe task using human faces
The androgen derivative androstadienone is a substance found in human sweat and thus is a putative human chemosignal. Androstadienone has been studied with respect to effects on mood states, attractiveness ratings, physiological and neural activation. With the current experiment, we aimed to explore in which way androstadienone affects attention to social cues (human faces). Moreover, we wanted to test whether effects depend on specific emotions, the participants' sex and individual sensitivity to smell androstadienone. To do so, we investigated 56 healthy individuals (thereof 29 females taking oral contraceptives) with two attention tasks on two consecutive days (once under androstadienone, once under placebo exposure in pseudorandomized order). With an emotional dot-probe task we measured visuo-spatial cueing while an emotional Stroop task allowed us to investigate interference control. Our results suggest that androstadienone acts in a sex, task and emotion-specific manner as a reduction in interference processes in the emotional Stroop task was only apparent for angry faces in men under androstadienone exposure. More specifically, men showed a smaller difference in reaction times for congruent compared to incongruent trials. At the same time also women were slightly affected by smelling androstadienone as they classified angry faces more often correctly under androstadienone. For the emotional dot-probe task no modulation by androstadienone was observed. Furthermore, in both attention paradigms individual sensitivity to androstadienone was neither correlated with reaction times nor error rates in men and women. To conclude, exposure to androstadienone seems to potentiate the relevance of angry faces in both men and women in connection with interference control, while processes of visuo-spatial cueing remain unaffected.