Newborn Babies’ Smell Has Opposite Effects on Parents
A recent study found that an odorless compound called hexadecanal, or HEX, emitted by humans, especially babies, is vital for survival.
The researchers examined whether HEX can impact human aggression. They discovered that the human nose could not identify the scent of this molecule. Moreover, sniffing HEX may block aggression in males but trigger it in females.
The research team discovered mirroring of brain activity through functional brain imaging. The Hex molecule increased the activity of the brain area responsible for understanding social cues. The study involved 130 participants. The researchers developed a computer game that had two stages. The first stage was supposed to trigger aggression in the participants, while they were allowed to discharge aggressive feelings during the second stage. Moreover, the participants were divided into two groups. The first group was exposed to HEX, and the second acted as a control group.
The participants were given a task to play a game against a computer that was meant to represent another person, all the while they did not know that they played against computers:
- They were supposed to share a sum of virtual money with their “partner.”
- The participants played another game, and their assignment was to punish the partner with a noisy sound.
- They could determine the sound level by themselves, which was an indicator of their level of aggression.
The experiment’s author noted that each participant in the first group had a different reaction than the participants in the second one. Although the results were inconsistent initially, they became apparent when the research team noted the sex of the participants. Exposure to HEX made men less aggressive while increasing aggression in women.
It is already known that animals can release chemical signals that impact social relationships. However, it was not discovered that those signals could also affect humans by far. Furthermore, whether the HEX molecule can impact humans is hypothetical because the researchers failed to demonstrate that babies or adults can produce a sufficient amount of HEX to change the way people behave.
Photo by Michal Bar Haim on Unsplash