(NEW YORK) -- Can coming into contact with a foul-smelling person make you more likely to treat them well? It turns out the answer is yes, but there’s an important caveat to this theory. While it’s only natural for someone to turn away in disgust while encountering a person with over-powering body odor, Camps says that it also seems to make people feel more empathetic and even generous if they believe the individual with the bad smell is destitute through no fault of their own.
Camps and her team conducted a series of experiments, including one in which a shirt worn by an imaginary person that had been soaking in aromas that included beer, sweat and even gaseous excretions elicited feelings of pity more so than a clean-smelling shirt.
In another hypothetical situation, participants played games in which credits were donated either to people in clean shirts or those wearing the odorous shirts used in the first experiment. As it happened, the people who smelled worse collected more credits.
While Camps says that it’s possible that too much exposure to bad-smelling people might eventually make people feel less kindly towards them, at least in first encounters, people act more humane to those who seem to be in need.
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