Our sense of smell is the antivirus software of the senses -- we don't pay much attention unless it's telling us about something bad.
Sure, we occasionally take the time to appreciate perfumes and flowers and the smell of chocolate-covered bacon, but unless there's dangerous gas or hidden corpses around, nose powers just don't seem all that important. It's not as if we can, like, smell buried treasure, or the location of the cellphone we left on silent.
But while you're ignoring it, the stuff your nose is doing in the background borders on freaking magic. After all, your sense of smell can ...
6Make You (Mildly) Psychic
Do you, or someone you know, feel like you have an "intuition" about people? Can you sense when they're scared, or attracted to you, even if they're doing everything they can to hide it? Well, there's a good chance your "intuition" comes from that thing on your face between your mouth and your eyes.
It's all about smell. Scientists found that women can smell when a man is horny -- the experiment was as simple as getting some men sexually aroused, collecting their sweat and having women smell it. The women's brains were being scanned by an MRI at the moment they smelled the sweat samples, and sure enough, the horny sweat made their brains light up.
This guy just made them vomit.
If you're a dude and reading that makes you feel anxious, there's more bad luck coming. Your date can probably also smell your fear, and so can the guy at the table next to you. This was discovered in another experiment that was conducted in a similar way. They collected sweat from people of both sexes as they watched either scary or funny movies. Women were able to successfully identify which was the fear-sweat and which was the "laughing at Rob Schneider" sweat. Men didn't do quite as well, but still were able to identify both male fear and female joy from bodily fluids alone.
It's caused by a class of chemical signals, unoriginally called chemosignals, that are found in human sweat, tears and possibly other fluids. The extent to which chemosignals affect humans in day-to-day life is still under debate: It's hard to measure this kind of thing accurately, because a lot of the time the influence of chemosignals is subconscious.
"Wait, why do I keep having flashes of gay pornography?"
That's what's so weird about it -- even though the MRI showed different parts of the women's brains working depending on which sweat they smelled, in every case the subjects claimed they couldn't tell the difference. Yet, when made to guess which was which (fear sweat vs. happy sweat, horny sweat vs. normal sweat), they were able to pick correctly (at least, at a rate better than chance). So it appears that a lot of what you just "sense" about people is nothing more than picking up chemicals in their fluids.
And make no mistake, these psychic nose-messages do affect us: Sweat collected from men about to go skydiving was shown to activate the "fear" sections in brains of people exposed to it. Women exposed to male fear-sweat also rated neutral faces as more "fearful" than when they were sniffing sweat unassociated with terror.
And psychotic faces to be more "murdery."
And get this -- the military is funding research into automated emotion detection systems that use chemosignals to detect suspiciously anxious people in public places. To picture the future, imagine a robot nose sticking into a human armpit, forever.