The scent of the other women: Body odor-induced behavioral and physiological effects on face categorization
In body odor research, the interaction of female donors and receivers is scarcely investigated. With the aim to investigate effects of female body odor in a competitive context, we tested 51 women divided into two groups (i.e., a competitive and a non-competitive group, based on verbal instructions). Between groups, we explored whether female body odor exposure (vs. masker odor) modulates emotion categorization (via RT variance and distribution) and physiological reactions (via instantaneous heart rate) in a task with dynamic male and female faces as either angry or happy. Women in the competitive group reported to feel more competitive and performed more accurately. They gathered more emotional information to categorize dynamic faces and when additionally exposed to female body odor, they showed a resistance to cardiac deceleration. Lapses of attention (via RT distribution) occurred irrespective of body odor exposure. Our results support the idea that female body odors, presented in a competitive context, contrast cardiac deceleration and, by tendency, modulate emotion categorization. Data are discussed in the context of chemosignaling and social interactions among women.