Scent of a Man Leads to Stress

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Originally posted on May 15, 2014.

Each day we face stressors. Our pets get sick, lightning strikes the office, or we miss loved ones. New research identified another stressor lurking in our midst: men.

This research, which was reported by the New York Times, showed that rats and mice get stressed out when they’re around men. Even catching a whiff of a men’s t-shirt was enough to raise their stress hormones. The scent of a woman didn’t increase stress.

Most men don’t consider themselves stressors. When I walk into a classroom, I tell my students my mission:

  • Motivate
  • Encourage
  • Advocate
  • Learn

But these findings suggest that no matter what I do, my maleness may spike their stress levels. The good news is that our bodies adjust. The first day of class might be stressful, especially when you have a male instructor. Over time that stress should wash away.

How far can we extrapolate these findings? Although exposure to a single male increases stress that eventually drops off, what if people were constantly bombarded with men? In societies where men outnumber women, would stress levels peak? My next post will answer that question.

About the Author
C. Nathan DeWall is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Social Psychology Lab at the University of Kentucky. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from St. Olaf College, a Master’s Degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago, and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Florida State University. DeWall received the 2011 College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching. In 2011, the Association for Psychological Science identified DeWall as a “Rising Star” for “making significant contributions to the field of psychological science.”