Perspiration and communication: Behavioral effects of fear chemosignaling in relation to cognitive and affective empathy
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. The chemical composition of fear and stress sweat is known to induce a similar state to that of the sender in the receiver, resulting in enhanced vigilance and emotional contagion. In social sciences, the ability to adopt the mental and physical state of someone else is known to strongly depend on certain aspects of empathy. This effect has however not been considered for the adoption of states through olfaction. Additionally, only fast stress sweat (originating from the sympathetic-adrenal medullary system) is examined in the literature, excluding the influence of the slower HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) stress system. The current study, therefore, examines whether emotion recognition and mimicry following exposure to stress sweat is moderated by cognitive and affective empathy, with data collected by de Groot et al. (2015). Female participants were divided into high and low empathy groups, and their Noisy Facial Expression Classification Task (NFECT) and mimicry (with EMG) performance was measured while stress odors were presented. Highly cognitive empathetic participants showed better performances on the NFECT. However, mimicry responses were mostly absent. Interestingly, the moderation of empathy seemed to be highest in the high and low cortisol conditions. Cognitive empathy seems to have a mildly moderating effect on states transferal via chemosignaling, although this effect seems to be mitigated when fast stress is provided, possibly because it equalizes facial emotion recognition performance between high and low empathy groups.