Hidden factors that shape our relationships

Last Updated: Jun 07, 2010, 13:30 PM IST

Washington: It’s not just words and gestures that shape human social interactions, hidden factors such as smell, proximity, and even temperature, influence how we relate to others, say researchers.

Gun R. Semin, a researcher at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, said that our environmental surroundings seem to affect our judgments of both people and things, reports Live Science.

In one experiment, subjects were asked to read narratives of people acting intelligently, neutrally or stupidly, and asked to rate characteristics about that person, such as their intelligence and sociability.

When the room was warmer, participants rated the character as more sociable compared with when it was colder. They also judged the experimenter in charge of instructing the task as more sociable when the heat was on.

The work seems in line with some previous studies that have found a link between temperature and our social feelings. For instance, a 2008 studied showed that people who recall memories of isolation judge a room to be colder than those who recall more happy social experiences of being accepted.

Semin performed the same experiment again, but this time looked at the effects of distance between people on their judgments. When subjects were sitting next to each other (each at a computer), they rated the individuals in the narratives as being more sociable compared with when the subjects were sitting a few computers apart.

The scientists also claimed that a parson’s smell can also influence his or her relationship with others.

Denise Chen of Rice University has compiled a growing body of evidence that humans can indeed communicate through odours, as animals are well known to do.

One study showed women’s brains respond differently to men’s sweat depending on the circumstances under which the sweat was produced.

If the sweat was generated while the men were aroused from watching erotic videos, the women’s brains were activated in regions responsible for recognising emotions. No such pattern was seen in women’s brains when they smelled sweat produced under normal circumstances.

The research was presented at the Association for Psychological Science Convention.

ANI

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