Different armpits under my new nose: Olfactory sex but not gender affects implicit measures of embodiment

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Conflicting multisensory signals may alter embodiment to produce self-identification with a foreign body, but the role of olfaction in this process has been overlooked. We studied in healthy participants how sex (male and female sweat odors) and gender (male and female cosmetic scents) olfactory stimuli contribute to embodiment. Participants saw, on a head mounted display, the first-person perspective of a sex mismatching person. Synchronous visuotactile stimulation was applied to enhance illusory embodiment. Simultaneously, they smelled either sex- or gender- congruent or incongruent stimuli. We assessed implicit (skin conductance responses to visual threats) and explicit (questionnaire) measures of embodiment. Stronger responses to threat were found when participants smelled the sex-congruent compared to the sex-incongruent odor, while no such differences were found for the cosmetic scents. According to the questionnaire, embodiment did not differ between conditions. Post-experimental assessment of the presented cues, suggest that while both sweat odors were considered generally male, cosmetic scents were not. The presented scents were generally not associated with the embodied body. Our results suggest that sex-related body odors influence implicit but not explicit aspects of embodiment and are in line with unique characteristics of olfaction in other aspects of cognition.
olfaction, embodiment: gender, plasticity, multisensory integration, bodily illusion
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Roel Lesur, M., Stussi, Y. Bertrand, P., Delplanque, S. Lenggenhager, B. (2023). Different armpits under my new nose: Olfactory sex but not gender affects implicit measures of embodiment. Biological Psychology, 176, 108477.