Several physical features influence the perception of how cooperative a potential partner is. While previous work focused on face and voice, it remains unknown whether body odours influence judgements of cooperativeness and if odour-based judgements are accurate. Here, we first collected axillary odours of cooperative and uncooperative male donors through a public good game and used them as olfactory stimuli in a series of tasks examining whether and how they influence cooperative decision-making in an incentivized economic game and ratings of cooperativeness. Our results show that having access to the donor’s body odours provided a strategic advantage to women during economic decisions (but not to men): with age, women were more likely to cooperate with cooperative men and to avoid interacting with uncooperative men. Ratings of cooperativeness were nonetheless unrelated to the donors’ actual cooperativeness. Finally, while men with masculine and intense body odours were judged less cooperative, we found no evidence that donors’ actual cooperativeness was associated with less masculine or less intense body odour. Overall, our findings suggest that, as faces and voices, body odours influence perceived cooperativeness and might be used accurately and in a non-aware manner as olfactory cues of cooperativeness, at least by women..
The smell of cooperativeness: Do human body odours advertise cooperative behaviours?
13 December 2021