Can You Smell Fear? (EXPERIMENT)

Can You Smell Fear? (EXPERIMENT)

Everyone can feel fear,
but can you smell it? Let’s talk about that. ♪ (theme music) ♪ Good Mythical Morning! You’ve probably heard that
dogs and bees can smell fear. That’s actually debatable, but today we
are gonna explore whether humans can – smell fear, and… is it contagious?
– (scoffs) What? (explosion noise) Half of your
brain exploded and it got on me. – This half. The half that listens to you.
– I’ll clean that off later. – This half is always in its own world.
– Interesting study by Stony Brook University in New York– link to the
article in the description– found that people who are scared give off pheromones.
Fear-omones. It’s basically a hormone that – kinda makes you…
– I thought pheromones were a good thing, – like makes you attractive.
– Well, they may be, okay? We can explore that too. Here’s the experiment:
They taped absorbent pads to the underarms of 40 volunteers who
had never been skydiving. – I’m not the only person that does that?
– (laughs) That’s your technique? Yeah, I’ve had some desperate moments
when I’ve done that as a youngster. – Yeah.
– Like, I’m so nervous, I don’t wanna get the whole drainage down the
arm, like the trickle-trickle-trickle? – Yeah.
– Anyway, they’d never been skydiving. They take them up skydiving and then
they take their fear-sweat-soaked pads – Mmhm.
– and then they let another group of – volunteers sniff the pads.
– Lucky volunteers! (sniffs) Or some of those people also
got to smell non-fear sweat. – Just, like, regular sweat.
– And then they monitored the brain activity. They didn’t even ask them what
they thought. They monitored their brain activity and they found that the brain’s
fear centers lit up whenever they smelled only the fear-soaked skydiving sweat and
not the other sweat. So, the conclusion was: humans can smell fear and it
might be a subconscious thing or a… – You smell fear, you get fearful.
– pheromonal thing. But yeah, it’s – contagious. It’s fascinating, isn’t it?
– Okay, well here’s what we’re gonna do in order to test this out: we’re going to
be subjected to either something that scares us or something
that makes us very happy. – Uh huh.
– One at a time. And while that person is being subjected to that thing, the other
person is gonna go to an isolation booth and we’re gonna come back, we’re gonna
smell each other– well, the person who– – … who’s gone comes back and smells.
– smells the underarms and decides if you – were just scared or fearful or whatever.
– And if we become scared, we know that – it’s probably because the person–
– You were scared. – was scared. So…
– This is science, people! Let’s do the experiment.
To the Fear-iment Zone! Okay, here we are in the Fear-iment Zone.
We’re basically in the same place except now we’re standing and
we’re wearing tank tops. We’re wearing tank tops because tank tops
provide easy access to underarms, which– Show your underarms, Link! You’re gonna
be– whoa. You’re gonna be showing ’em a lot! We’re gonna be smelling each
other’s underarms, which, incidentally, – I don’t think we’ve ever done before.
– And never again, hopefully. We’re gonna send you to the isolation
booth first, and then I will be subjected to something that scares me or something
that makes me happy. You’ll come back from the isolation booth, smell me, and
you’ll see if I was scared, whatever. Okay, okay yeah. And
then we’ll switch it up. – And vice versa.
– All right, all right, I’ll be in here. – Good luck.
– (Link) Sound isolated. – ♪ (jazzy music) ♪
– (Link) Okay, here I am. It’s a little bit creepy. You guys
better not leave me in here! (Stevie) Okay, now I’m gonna
drop you off somewhere. – ♪ (suspenseful music) ♪
– (Stevie) Okay, now turn this way and – take a step up.
– (Rhett whimpers) – (crew laughs)
– (Stevie) Now hold on. Okay, now climb. (ladder creaks) I’m not happy. I’m not happy about this. (ladder creaks) Is it a– oh! (laughs nervously) Aie. (Stevie) One more step. (Stevie) Okay, take off your blindfold. I’m not… I’m not comfortable. (sighs)
I’m very scared of heights. I do not like being on top–
what is this, a 16-foot ladder? I’m just gonna let– I’m gonna let the fear
set in. I’m gonna go up one more step. – (ladder creaks)
– (whispers) Oh, okay. (Rhett) Yeah. Ohh! Okay. I’m fearful right
now. I don’t know how much Link is gonna be able to detect that, but I am
definitely not happy. I’m very fearful. – (Link sniffs)
– Hey man, how’s the isolation chamber? I’m not smelling anything yet.
Boring. It’s boring in there. Get in there. There’s people
who do this for a living. I don’t smell anything on that one.
I don’t smell ANYTHING on that one. – (Rhett) It’s neutral, huh? pH balanced.
– I smell deodorant on that one. – Strong enough for a woman.
– You only put deodorant on the right pit? – No, I probably put more though.
– Um, I don’t smell anything, really. – I don’t feel any fear right now.
– Do it again. Nothing. I mean, I almost feel happy, so I
don’t know if happiness is contagious, but I’m gonna say… no fear.
I’m not getting any fear. Well, you’re wrong, Link. I climbed to the
top of the very tall ladder and you know – that I am scared of heights.
– Were you scared? – Yeah!
– Did you cry like a baby? – No, ’cause I don’t–
– You didn’t push it hard enough. Well, I’m not gonna panic because
if you panic, you fall. But I got up there, my palms got sweaty, I was very
uncomfortable, and I let it register. I let it register in my pits. – Hm. All right, lemme have a shot at it.
– Good luck! All right, get outta here. ♪ (jazzy music) ♪ – (Stevie) Okay, ready?
– Okay, so take off the blindfold? – (Stevie) Uh huh.
– I smell something, – but I don’t know what it is.
– (Stevie) Go ahead. – (laughs) Hah, yeah!
– ♪ (cheerful music) ♪ I was afraid of what it might be. (laughs)
Wow, guys! Is it my birthday? This is great! This is great. But I was a little
afraid before this so I don’t know if I– Mm. (slurps) This is pretty much a dream
of mine. A huge bowl of cereal. Frosted Mini-Wheats. (slurps and chews) Okay, bring him in! – (Stevie) Okay, here comes Rhett.
– (whispers) Is it out of my teeth? – Take a sniffy sniffy. Really sniff.
– I am, I’m just… I’m getting a waft – first. I got a technique, man.
– (laughs) – (sniffs)
– (laughs) – Oh, whoa. Whoa whoa whoa.
– (laughs) – Is that your breath or your underarm?
– (crew laughs) – Close your mouth completely.
– (laughs) (Link and crew laugh) Weird. – What’s it smell like?
– I don’t smell anything, but– – Really?
– I’m fearful, but I don’t know if it’s– – Smell real hard.
– This one’s different. Mm. Smell this one, dude. Get up on this
and smell it. And be honest about what you smell. (shouts) Augh! – (laughs)
– (retches) I didn’t put on deodorant this morning. (laughs) It legitimately
stinks, doesn’t it. – Yeah.
– I can smell myself. – (mocking) I can smell myself!
– (laughs) – Ugh!
– This one’s okay. Yeah, you got some unevens problems.
I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m gonna go with my instinct. I just walked up here
and when I– I think it was I was afraid to interact with you in
this way, that could be it. – Ah, right.
– But as soon as I started smelling, – I got a little scared.
– And then– describe what that smells – like once you really get in there.
– B.O. – (laughs) Yeah, it is.
– But so… I don’t know, you don’t seem like you’ve been frightened, but I’m not–
my instincts tell me that you’ve been – scared.
– I’m going totally neutral so you can – take that out of the equation.
– But my nose tells me that you were scared. I felt a little bit of fear.
I’m not making that up. Okay, I wanna show you
what I was subjected to. (Link laughs) Check that out!
Ain’t nothing scary about that. Hold on, so we’re proving
this whole thing wrong. So far. But hey, let’s do two more rounds.
This is as happy as I’ve been in a couple – of months!
– That’s a big bowl of cereal. All right, I’m going back
in the isolation booth. I gotta get my blindfold on.
Take your cereal with you. It’s your turn. – ♪ (suspenseful music) ♪
– (Stevie) Okay, you ready to take off your blindfold? One, two, three, Eddie!
Rhett, go ahead, take ’em off now. Guh… (shouts) What! Yeaegh! Ngh… I hate… I hate bugs of all kinds.
And I– where’d the heck did you get this kind of stuff? (sputters) What,
where, where’d you get these things?! Do I have to stay down in–
do I have to stay in here? Eeegh– (yelps) Agh!
(incoherent high-pitched noises) I can safely say there are some
fear-omones that were released during the initial stages of that, that if it is
possible to smell fear, Link will. – (Link sniffs) Lemme put this down.
– You didn’t eat all that, did you? (Link) Yeah, I had to do
something while I was– – You ate all that cereal?
– Wouldn’t you? – No.
– And now that I’ve eaten all that cereal, – I’m gonna smell your armpits.
– Yeah. – I actually touched hair to my nose.
– Augh! – That is gross. That is commitment.
– Ugh. How’d it feel? – (laughs) It’s so conveniently eye level.
– You’re the first person that’s ever told – me that.
– It smells good, but I’m– (laughs) Your armpits are so
conveniently eye level! All right, put your arms down. It
smells good, but I feel apprehensive. – Really? Apprehensive?
– And there’s a little water in your eyes, – so I feel like that’s a little fear.
– (mocking) A little fear… (laughs) Um… it smells too good. No fear.
No fear, changing my mind, last second. – Stick your hand in there.
– I’m not sticking my hand in there. – Ohh! What is that?
– (Rhett) Roaches. All right, let me go for this last round,
which I’m sure will be something – nice again.
– (claps) Get outta here. Isolate
yourself in terms of sound. – (Stevie) You guys ready?
– (Chase) I’m ready. – (Eddie) Yeah.
– (Stevie) Link, don’t take off your – blindfold until I tell you to.
– (Link) Okay. – (Stevie) Okay, on the count of three…
– (Link) All right, okay… – ♪ (suspenseful music) ♪
– (Stevie) One, two, three! (screams) Aaagh! What?! What?! What
is that? Something went into my mouth! – (Chase growls and laughs)
– Sounds like Chase in there. – (crew laughs)
– It scared me for a second. What is that? – What’d you put in my mouth?
– (Chase, muffled) Tomato. – Eugh, it really does taste like tomato.
– (Chase laughs) Okay. Um, we’re gonna have to play that
back to see how scared I actually was, but something tells me that there was
a moment– (laughs) that there was an embarrassing moment of fear. (slowed down screaming) Okay, well we gotta– let’s clean this up
a little bit so when Rhett comes in I can play it cool. (Stevie) Okay, Rhett’s coming.
You guys all set? – Give the armpits a whiff.
– What– what is on you? It might be the smell of fear.
It might be the smell of… – Tomatoes? What?
– Could be… could be a number of things. – How’s it smell?
– Fruity! Some of that fruity smell. – It’s weird. I definitely smell a ketchup.
– Really get in there. Eugh, that left one is some–
what– what’s wrong with you?! – (crew laughs)
– You been working harder on the left side – of your body?! It’s horrible!
– (laughs) (Rhett) You should be ashamed of
yourself! No one should smell like that! I smell it too. I’m sorry. I didn’t put on
deodorant this morning. I wanted it to – be pure.
– Here’s the deal. Those people who did the test that we used as a reference,
they just smelled pads. But I come in here and you’re going like this and you got
tomatoes on you. I mean, I know you don’t like tomatoes, so it had to be bad, you
know? I’m just using my brain here. So, do you smell fear?
Do you experience fear? I’m gonna be honest with you. I do not–
I just smell arms. Underarms. – The left one stinks.
– (Link and crew laugh) – It does.
– The right one smells like tomatoes. – Okay.
– But I believe that you were frightened. Let’s just keep the streak alive, that we
don’t smell fear, that we don’t have it. We don’t have this ability. I don’t think
you were scared. My nose doesn’t think – you were scared.
– But your mind thinks that– – My mind knows that you were.
– All right, this is what I was presented with. Make the noise, Chase. Go all the way. – (Chase grunts)
– (Rhett and crew laugh) Okay, that’s enough. Go away.
Never enter my dreams. – Oh my.
– It was pitch black. – There was a spotlight involved.
– (laughs) That’s scary! – And he squeezed tomato…
– That is– (laughs) That is scary! – He squeezed tomatoes all over me–
– Agh! – And into my mouth.
– (laughs) Oh gosh. That is scary, Chase! – Wow.
– (crew laughs) Back to the Desk Zone. – Okay, I feel safe back here at the desk.
– I feel safe ’cause I’m on your right side. – (laughs)
– I mean, we need to discuss… I don’t know. I didn’t wear deodorant
because I wanted there it to just be – unadulterated. And I don’t think–
– It was unadulterated. I feel adulterated. – (laughs)
– All I know is: neither one of us did a good job. In fact, we were wrong
basically every time. We didn’t smell it. But hey, maybe the findings are
controversial. Maybe we don’t know. Maybe you smelled fear.
Let us know in the comments. – (laughs)
– Thanks for liking this video. You know what time it is. Hello. I’m Peyton from Alexandria,
Virginia. It’s cold up here. And it’s time to spin the Wheel of Mythicality. We’ve got an Instagram. If you’ve got one,
you should follow us on there because – every Wednesday is Waffle Wednesday!
– (Link) Wooooo! Click through to Good Mythical More
where we share our deepest fears. – What?
– Deepest darkest fears. (Rhett) Freeze frame! ♪ (piano music) ♪ [Captioned by Caitrin:
GMM Captioning Team]

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About the Author: John Markowski


  1. Only his left pit smells? What is that? My left pit also smells worse than my right! Is there a scientific reason for that?

  2. my right arm pit is worse than my left. My left actually rarely has a scent. This occurs likely because my right arm is my dominant and Link's left is his dominant.

  3. rhett on that ladder. lets appreciate that real quick. amazing. hes so brave to not like cry immediately. id freak tf out

  4. Truth be our sweat smells alot worse when stressed than after a good hour at the gym. To put up an example, sitting in an exam-room is hell because there are plenty people sweating nervously. The gym is actually not as bad xD I've been witnessing in court twice, been through a good number of exams, I used to hate going to the dentist and doctor etc. I've always experienced that I smell ALOT worse after something like that than after being at the gym or being out in the warming sun. So I think that is what they mean with "smell fear".

  5. I thought i was smelling something horrible when im watching this video, until i realized im in the toilet taking a poo poo…

  6. Link we can be friends. I understand your love of cereal and that episode where you guys went to that cereal factory had me dying with laughter when you guys got into that giant bowl of cereal!

  7. "And never again hopefully" . Fast firward 3 years where they proceed to sniff each other's under arms ?

    If u was afraid of heights you would react VERY differently.

    If u was afraid of bugs, especially things that made me look away like those, you'd bite ur tongue to die like I would!

  9. I hope they don’t actually think that whatever results, they get from this “study”, are actually permissible… Seriously, this “study” proves nothing, and it bothers me to no end when people do such shoddy work and then base actual conclusions off of it.

    The study said nothing about whether or not the people could say they “smelled fear”!!!!!!! That’s not what the study was about!!! Good freaking lord.

  10. I know they expected to be scared but I stilll feeeel badddd

    Why does he love cereal? Does he not get it often haha

    Why doesnt he just pour him some at home?

  11. You sweat when nervous. It's what you eat. Your butt hole sweats. Arm pits. Fear doesn't smell. Just nervous reaction to cool off receptors or discharge of toxin.

  12. Perchance Link couldn't pick up on Rhett's fear because they kind of sort of like watching each other suffer LOL

  13. Ya, you can totally smell fear. You can smell it, taste it, sense it. It's like an underlying sense of knowing.

  14. It is sort of funny how in this episode Rhett has mostly bad things happen to him. Later roles are reversed and Link is stuck in that role.

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