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Effects of odorant exposure in the processing of basic and complex emotions

Grant number: 19/15720-5
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2019
Effective date (End): July 31, 2020
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Psychology - Experimental Psychology
Acordo de Cooperação: Natura
Principal Investigator:Mirella Gualtieri
Grantee:Matheus Henrique Ferreira
Host Institution: Instituto de Psicologia (IP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:14/50282-5 - Positive psychology and neuroscience: translational research to promote well-being and emotional regulation, AP.PCPE


The relation between odors and emotions can be illustrated in both physiological and psychological levels. In the case of neuroanatomy, olfactory system is different from the other modalities. It does not present thalamic mediation before the signal reaches cerebral cortex, and other encephalic structures that are involved in the processing of emotional responses. It can be said that the neuroanatomy of the olfactory system is interlaced with the limbic system. This proximity between olfaction and emotion is not limited to the physiological aspect, but can also be demonstrated in behavior. Odorants can change the hedonic evaluation of images and interfere in other emotional processes, such as the identification of facial expressions. This interference possibly happens because of alterations in the emotional state elicited by the odorants Research indicate that positive and negative mood states can impair the identification of incongruent facial expressions (happiness and sadness, respectively), what corroborates with the hypothesis of emotional congruence. Eytracking research shows that the emotional states also can affect gaze pattern. The objective of the present study is to investigate if the influence of odorants in the identification of facial expressions happens because of changes in the visual exploration of the stimulus (face). Our hypothesis is that odorants may influence the facial expression identification, in some level, due modulation of the gaze pattern. The olfactory stimulation possibly raises, or decreases, the time of gaze fixation in some properties of the face that are relevant for the interpretation of certain facial expression. If the pleasant olfactory stimulation can raise the global processing of the facial expression, it can also impair the perception of subtle changes in the face and possibly facilitates the perception of expressions that uses larger face muscles, such as happiness uses the zygomaticus major. Some researchers have studied the interpretation of complex emotions and concluded that olfactory stimuli can influence processes that involve interpretation of basic emotions. Our second hypothesis is that this effect can also extends to situations that involve complex emotions. Moral fundaments theory postulate six main fundaments. These fundaments refer to neglect with suffering of others, feeling of justice, loyalty to the group, deference to authority and traditions, preoccupation with purity and contamination and preoccupation with domination and coercion. Each of these fundaments represent a set of intuitions that evolved to resolve certain social dilemmas. The second objective of this study is to investigate if the olfactory stimulation changes the perception of complex emotions, according to its subjective hedonic valence, in such way that can influence the moral judgement.

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