Researchers have continuously noted that smell had a strong impact on attraction to certain objects. A new study done at the University of British Columbia researched the effects of stress levels in women after smelling a partner’s scent, a stranger’s smell, and an unworn smell on a T-shirt. The background on this study focused on theories that a familiar smell is comforting and can reduce stress levels in the body.
96 heterosexual couples volunteered to be in this study. The women were randomly assigned to smell either their partner’s worn shirt, a stranger’s, or an unworn shirt. The men were all assigned to wear the same T-shirt provided by the experimenters for 24 hours, refraining from exercise, smelly foods, or any activity that would skew scent. The women blindly smelled only one shirt from the three groups and completed a series of stress tests. Vitals along with a saliva samples were taken before and after the tasks.
It was hypothesized that stress levels in the women would increase with the stranger’s shirt, decrease with their partner’s shirt and stay constant with the unworn shirt. In correlation to the T-shirt and stressful situation readings, it was seen that in the presence of a familiar scent, cortisol levels decreased, and the opposite was recorded for strange scents. Women exposed to the unworn shirt had no significant change, but slightly reflected the effects of the partner’s scent.
Researchers believe this reflex comes from an evolutionary cycle of “fight or flight.” The reaction of the women was determined by if their bodies thought the scent was familiar of not, so only women who guessed the shirt owner correct were accounted for in data collection. The human body can change its chemistry without our aware knowledge.
(291 words– original article was 307)
In the summary I chose to include how the study question was brought up with what background information was used to formulate a hypothesis. I think this is important to include because olfactory experiments have rarely been done before this experiment, so having some brief background is reassuring to readers. I made sure to include how the couples were randomly assigned to 3 groups, and the women and men had no knowledge of what group they were in. These random groups were crucial to the validity of the research, since the women could have calmed themselves down or reacted more heavily to the stress tests if aware of who’s scent they smelled. I did not include details of all 5 critical questions, because some were irrelevant to the overall understanding of the study for a brief reading. I answered the question of how they selected their participants, since the couples volunteered to be in the study. I also stated how the couples were randomly assigned into 3 groups, which answers the question of how they assigned their participants to groups. I did not fully discuss causal claims since a reader will not fully understand the correlation between stress levels at different periods of the study in quick reading. The conclusions were generalized to the public, but I did not include that in the summary since I think to a reader that is assumed to be the fact.
In the summary, I tried to answer more of the 5 critical questions than the article itself originally did. I thought including how the participants were selected and assigned was information that was beneficial for the reader. Also, I included more information about how the women were used to smell the shirt. In the original article, it only states that the women would smell a T-shirt that was either their partner’s, a stranger’s, or unworn, but they left out the fact that the women only smell one shirt over the course of the experiment. They in total would only smell one shirt from one of those categories and keep smelling it at various times throughout the study. I think it is important for the reader to know that the conclusions are drawn by the women having only been affected by one type of olfactory reaction. In comparison, I think both the article and the summary give a brief overview of the main points of the journal article, but there are obvious detail-oriented differences between them.
Overall from going through each of the three assignments in this semester, I have learned a lot about how psychology is written about in the media. In the pop culture article critique, it was hard to set apart what was good information, and what could be added to have a better understanding of the research, since the research was not seen yet. The 5 critical questions were not easily answered, and it was hard to follow at times since it was written so vaguely. After reading the journal article, I saw there were major chunks of information left out of the brief pop culture article. I tried to change that in my summary, but it was difficult to fit important details in the space provided. I give psychology writers recognition for being able to write thoughtful articles without leaving out information. In the article summary I wrote, I tried to encompass each aspect I thought was important from each assignment and tie it together.
Link to Article: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/health-buzz/articles/2018-01-05/smelling-your-partners-shirt-could-decrease-your-stress-levels-study-says
Link to Journal Article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29293018