Can you smell human fear?

The author of a book I’ve read says he’s able to smell fear. “I can smell it if the person I’m talking to is really scared”. What’s more, the guy (a practicing psychologist) says everybody can learn to notice the smell of strong emotions. I’ve done some googling, and he might be right.

I must say, that seems like a neat trick to learn. In my wild youth, me and my friend once hitched a ride from a guy whose car didn’t smell right. It smelled like cold sweat, like adrenaline. It made me feel edgy, although I didn’t quite know why, at the time. Sure enough, the guy made us an offer we definately had to refuse. But I still don’t know if it was the smell that alerted me to his internal struggle before offering us the ride, or the other non-verbal signs. I do remember however, that the smell struck me as “fear”.

So, can YOU smell fear? How does it smell? Can you smell other strong emotions? Any pointers to someone who wants to learn?

For me it would be more accurate to say that I can smell distress, on myself and others. It has a more acrid smell than sweat that just happens due to heat or exertion (or sex, for that matter-- a whole 'nother realm of aroma). Each person also has a distinct scent signature, and a component of that smell is derived from why the person is sweating, in my experience. Thus, each person’s distress-smell is personalized, but usually it’s not a pleasant bouquet.

I don’t know if I can smell it, at least at a level where I would notice a scent. But, I can sense it somehow. It’s that feeling that something is seriously wrong. I don’t know if it is a smell, visual clues, or what.

It seems perfectly reasonable to me. “Flop sweat” smells nothing like normal perspiration.

Couldn’t pheromones factor in this some how or is that only involved in sexual attraction?

I can smell fear in animals - like my dog or cats - but not people. Knowing that I can smell it on animals makes me believe that it can probably be smelt on people too.

I’m not sure if I can smell it, though I can usually tell when something’s wrong with someone. Maybe I am smelling it and am just not aware. I’m a pretty olfactory person. One of the reasons I started going out with my husband was that he smelled right. It sounds stupid, I know, but everyone has their own unique body chemistry that produces a unique smell. If I don’t like someone’s smell, I’m not attracted to them. But I love the way my husband smells - he smells kind of spicy and warm. And it’s not his soap, deodorant or after shave - it’s just him. Apparently he feels the same way about me, because he says I always smell like strawberries, and that he really likes it.

So, to make an extremely long-winded, side-tracked story short, I’d buy it that you can smell fear. After all, doesn’t fear produce hormones (please correct me if I’m wrong)? If you can subconsciously smell pheromones that are secreted when you’re attracted to someone, it would make sense that you could smell hormones secreted when someone was really afraid.

As a youth, I once toured Hoover Dam. The tour took an elevator deep into the dam, and then walked down a tunnel to the main works. While in the tunnel I smelled a distinct smell. It was unlike B.O., but was pungent. I asked the tour-guide what the smell was, and he replyed…“FEAR”. So I would vote for yes, but maybe not from just one person…

I can smell it when a guy is so scared he shit his pants.

Exactly Man! I wanted to post this remark first .People when in danger loose control over his/her bladder, uncontrollable bowel movement might acctually happened first.
But in some less stresfull situations ,pheromones play prominent role.

That’s interesting. Is there any thresholdvalue of stress or distress? Can you smell it if a person is a bit stressed out from work, or do you only smell it on them if they are close to tears?

As for personal smells, I don’t think I’m now as much an olfactory person as you or overly verbose. To me, most people don’t have a noticable smell. (their own smell; not soap or perfume). Of the few whose smell stands out, most smell unpleasant. Only a few smell nice.

But then again, I’m not sure if one is born as an olfactory person or that one can learn to smell more and better. I do know that while I studied botany, I suddenly saw more differences in vegetation than I ever thought humanly possible; I suddenly could distinguish between shades of green I’d never noticed before, amd that most people still couldn’t see. It seemed my eyes actually got much, much better.
I’d love it if the same thing could happen to my sense of smell. I once read a true story by Oliver Sacks which describes a man who could suddenly smell as well as a dog. Fascinating story.
So **Rubystreak ** and overly verbose, have you always been olfactory persons or did this perception develop at some point?

pool, you might find this thread interesting. It’s about the research behind the advertisements on male perfumes that contain human pheromones and supposedly make the wearer irresitable to women. My second link in the OP suggests that fear and sexual excitement have the same effect on the sweat glands and therefore should produce the same smell. Odd, no?

**non-polar ** and Trunk, have you ever actually smelt a guy crapping his pants in fear?

I said in reall danger (beeing shot at etc,).
PS.My friend lost his small finger in industrial accident,and immediatelly he pissed his pants.

Well, it wasn’t so much a guy, as a dog.

And, he wasn’t exactly wearing pants.

And he kind of looked more hungry than scared.

But he was crapping. This I know. Well, that’s not entirely true. He was actually just peeing. But, same thing.