Fishy smells (psychological effects of)

If you were playing a ‘trust game’, would a generally pervasive fishy smell lead you to trust your opponents less? It might well do, according to recent research from the University of Michigan. Spike (Wing Sing) Lee and professor Norbert Schwarz explain how

“Forty-five students (mean age = 20.1 years, 22 female) at the University of Michigan participated in a one-shot trust game. They were approached individually on campus and randomly assigned to three smell conditions in a between-participants experimental design: fish oil (n = 16), fart spray (n = 15), or water (n = 14).”

The results of their set of fishy-based experiments suggest that:

“When something smells fishy, something suspicious is going on. The present studies suggest that this is not merely fancy language, but reflects the use of metaphoric knowledge that has behavioral, cognitive, and perceptual consequences.”

The paper:’Something Smells Fishy: On the Bidirectional Nature and Cognitive Mediation of Metaphoric Influence'(Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming.) can be read in full here (scroll to page 6 in the pdf)
(Fishy’n’Chips photo courtesy Canadian Girl Scout, Wikipedia)

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