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Olfaction and prejudice: The role of body odor disgust sensitivity and disease avoidance in understanding social attitudes
Stockholms universitet, Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Psykologiska institutionen.
2022 (Engelska)Doktorsavhandling, sammanläggning (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract [en]

Disease avoidance is one of the main roles of olfaction. In particular, body odors are universal elicitors of disgust, a core emotion that plays a key role in disease avoidance. The disease avoidance theoretical framework emphasizes psychological mechanisms – attitudes and behaviors – aiming to recognize and evade pathogen threats. Thus, it focuses on behavioral immune defenses and disgust, which often evokes such attitudes and behaviors. Importantly, the quality of body odors changes with sickness, and thus olfactory disease detection is possible. Body odor disgust sensitivity (BODS) might reflect a behavioral disposition to avoid pathogens, and it may also involve social attitudes that prefer limited contact with strangers. The general aim of this thesis was to investigate the connection between olfaction, (body) odor disgust, and social attitudes from the perspective of disease avoidance.

In Study I, I investigated the relationship between disgust sensitivity to body odors and prejudice. Using an online survey, I found that high levels of BODS were associated with stronger prejudice towards a fictitious refugee group and that this relationship was partially explained by perceiving the group as different in terms of food, hygiene, and sanitary practices. In Study II, I looked at the association between olfactory stimulation, BODS, and implicit bias toward an outgroup. BODS levels were positively related to implicit bias towards an outgroup; however, this bias was not affected by olfactory cues. In Study III, I aimed to see if the relationship between BODS and prejudice generalizes across different cultures and locations. I found that higher BODS levels were associated with more prejudiced attitudes towards a fictitious refugee group across nine countries on all continents. As in Study I, this relationship was partially explained by perceived dissimilarities of the refugees’ norms regarding hygiene and food preparation, and general attitudes toward immigration. In Study IV, I investigated the relationship between the self-reported body odor disgust and perception of real odors, showing that individuals with higher BODS levels perceived smells as more highly valenced overall: unpleasant smells were rated as more unpleasant, and pleasant smells were rated as more pleasant.

Overall, the research presented in this thesis supports the idea that there is a link between olfactory disgust and prejudice, which can be explained by disease avoidance behaviors.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University , 2022. , s. 86
Nyckelord [en]
olfaction, disease avoidance, prejudice, body odors, disgust sensitivity
Nationell ämneskategori
Psykologi
Forskningsämne
psykologi
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-204430ISBN: 978-91-7911-932-4 (tryckt)ISBN: 978-91-7911-933-1 (digital)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-204430DiVA, id: diva2:1656229
Disputation
2022-08-25, Hörsal 4, Hus 2, Albano, Albanovägen 18 and online via Zoom, public link is available at the department website, Stockholm, 10:00 (Engelska)
Opponent
Handledare
Tillgänglig från: 2022-05-31 Skapad: 2022-05-05 Senast uppdaterad: 2022-05-24Bibliografiskt granskad
Delarbeten
1. Body odor disgust sensitivity is associated with prejudice towards a fictive group of immigrants
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Body odor disgust sensitivity is associated with prejudice towards a fictive group of immigrants
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2019 (Engelska)Ingår i: Physiology and Behavior, ISSN 0031-9384, E-ISSN 1873-507X, Vol. 201, s. 221-227Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat) Published
Abstract [en]

Why are certain individuals persistent in opposing immigration? The behavioral immune system framework implies that a psychological mechanism, which adapted to detect and avoid pathogen threats, is also reflected in contemporary social attitudes. Moreover, prejudice towards outgroups might be partially driven by implicit pathogen concerns related to the perceived dissimilarity with these groups' hygiene and food preparation practices. Disgust, a universal core emotion supposedly evolved to avoid pathogen threats, as well as olfaction, both play a pivotal role in evoking disgust. In an online study (N = 800), we investigated whether individual differences in body odor disgust sensitivity (BODS) correlate with negative attitudes towards a fictive refugee group. The data analysis plan and hypotheses were preregistered. Results show that body odor disgust sensitivity is associated with xenophobia: BODS was positively associated with negative attitudes towards the fictive group. This relationship was partially mediated by perceived dissimilarities of the group in terms of hygiene and food preparation. Our finding suggests prejudice might be rooted in sensory mechanisms.

Nyckelord
olfaction, disgust, prejudice, behavioral immune system, xenophobia, body odor disgust sensitivity
Nationell ämneskategori
Psykologi
Forskningsämne
psykologi
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167407 (URN)10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.01.006 (DOI)000460824400027 ()
Tillgänglig från: 2019-03-28 Skapad: 2019-03-28 Senast uppdaterad: 2022-05-05Bibliografiskt granskad
2. An Overprotective Nose? Implicit Bias Is Positively Related to Individual Differences in Body Odor Disgust Sensitivity
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>An Overprotective Nose? Implicit Bias Is Positively Related to Individual Differences in Body Odor Disgust Sensitivity
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2020 (Engelska)Ingår i: Frontiers in Psychology, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 11, artikel-id 301Artikel i tidskrift (Refereegranskat) Published
Abstract [en]

Body odors are universal elicitors of disgust, a core emotion that plays a key role in the behavioral immune system (BIS) - a set of psychological functions working to avoid disease. Recent studies showed that body odor disgust sensitivity (BODS) is associated with explicit xenophobia and authoritarianism. In the current experimental pre-registered study (), we investigated the association between olfactory pathogen cues, BODS and implicit bias toward an outgroup (tested by an implicit association test). Results show that BODS is positively related to implicit bias toward an outgroup, suggesting that social attitudes may be linked to basic chemosensory processes. These attitudes were not influenced by background odors. Additionally, BODS was related to social, but not economic conservatism. This study extends the BIS framework to an experimental context by focusing on the role of disgust and body odors in shaping implicit bias.

Nyckelord
olfaction, disgust, implicit bias, behavioral immune system, authoritarianism, body odor disgust sensitivity
Nationell ämneskategori
Psykologi
Forskningsämne
psykologi
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-181069 (URN)10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00301 (DOI)000525283900001 ()32180752 (PubMedID)
Anmärkning

This work was supported by research grants from the Swedish Research Council (2016-02018) to MTL, a Pro Futura Scientia VII fellowship and research grants from the Swedish Research Council (421-2012-806) to JO and the Swedish Foundation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (M14-0375:1) to ML.

Tillgänglig från: 2020-05-01 Skapad: 2020-05-01 Senast uppdaterad: 2022-05-05Bibliografiskt granskad
3. Body odor disgust sensitivity is associated with xenophobia: Evidence from 9 countries
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Body odor disgust sensitivity is associated with xenophobia: Evidence from 9 countries
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(Engelska)Manuskript (preprint) (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract [en]

Body odor disgust sensitivity (BODS) reflects a behavioral disposition to avoid pathogens, and it may also involve social attitudes. Among participants in the USA, high levels of BODS were associated with stronger xenophobia towards a fictitious refugee group. To test the generalizability of this finding, we analyzed data from 9 countries across five continents (N = 6836). Using structural equation modeling, we found support for our preregistered hypotheses: higher BODS levels were associated with more xenophobic attitudes; this relationship was partially explained by perceived dissimilarities of the refugees’ norms regarding hygiene and food preparation, and general attitudes toward immigration. Our results support a theoretical notion of how pathogen avoidance is associated with social attitudes: “traditional norms” often involve behaviors that limit inter-group contact, social mobility and situations that might lead to pathogen exposure. Our results also indicate that the positive relationship between BODS and xenophobia is robust across cultures.  

Nyckelord
Olfaction, Disgust, Prejudice, Behavioral immune system, Xenophobia, Body odor disgust sensitivity
Nationell ämneskategori
Psykologi
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-204428 (URN)
Tillgänglig från: 2022-05-04 Skapad: 2022-05-04 Senast uppdaterad: 2022-05-13
4. Body odor disgust sensitivity (BODS) is related to extreme odor valence perception
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Body odor disgust sensitivity (BODS) is related to extreme odor valence perception
(Engelska)Manuskript (preprint) (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract [en]

Odors are important disease cues, and disgust sensitivity to body odors reflects individual differences in disease avoidance. The body odor disgust sensitivity scale (BODS) provides a rapid and valid assessment of individual differences. Nevertheless, little is yet known about how individual differences in BODS might correlate with overall odor perception. We investigated how BODS relates to perceptual ratings of pleasant and unpleasant odors. We aggregated data from 4 experiments (total N=190) that were conducted in our laboratory, and where valence and intensity ratings were collected. Unpleasant odors were body-like odors (e.g., sweat-like valeric acid), which may provide disease cues. Pleasant odors included those associated with hygiene (e.g., lilac; a common fragrance in soap). Across experiments, we show that individuals with higher BODS levels perceived smells as more highly valenced overall: unpleasant smells were rated as more unpleasant, and pleasant smells were rated as more pleasant. These results suggest that disease avoidance is reflected in odor valence perception. Furthermore, we found that disgust sensitivity to odors coming from external sources (e.g., someone else’s sweat) was the best predictor of odor valence ratings. The BODS scale has external validity as it reflects odor valence perception.

Nyckelord
olfaction, disgust, body odor disgust sensitivity, perception
Nationell ämneskategori
Psykologi Fysiologi
Forskningsämne
psykologi
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-204345 (URN)
Tillgänglig från: 2022-05-04 Skapad: 2022-05-04 Senast uppdaterad: 2022-05-05

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