Women who are stressed omit a smell that makes them come across as incompetent and untrustworthy to men, according to a new study.
Researchers have proved that people’s perceptions of someone under pressure changes when they can smell stress sweat – which is different to the sweat caused from exercise or being hot.
Compared to exercise or heat-induced sweat, the sweat odour given off by a stressed woman is perceived by both sexes as unpleasant and causes them to judge the sweater as lacking in confidence and competence and as untrustworthy reports the Daily Mail.
Scientists explain that exercise and heat sweat is produced from one type of sweat gland, whereas stress sweat comes from two and when those liquids mix with bacteria on the skin it makes a particularly foul smell.
The study, which was published in the journal PLOSone, had researchers take samples of the three different sweat types from 44 female donors.
The women were put through the Trier Social Stress Test, in which they were required to do five minutes of speech preparation, five minutes of mental arithmetic and five minutes of public speaking.
Sweat samples were taken during each task and the women rated their moods during each activity. Afterwards they did a 15-minute workout on an exercise bike to provide a sample of exertion sweat.
Researchers then used the samples, some of which were treated with deodorant, to see how they affected how the women were judged by others. They then showed videos of the woman performing everyday tasks such as office work, childcare and cleaning the house to 120 men and women and exposed them to the sweat samples.
All of the men and women who smelled the treated sweat rated the women significantly more confident, trustworthy and competent, and when they evaluated in the presence of untreated stress sweat the test subjects were rated equally by males and females as “stressed”.
The male participants rated the women in the videos significantly less confident, competent and trustworthy when the videos were matched with the untreated stress sweat, women however withheld their judgements.