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Odor, Adult Attachment and Emotions in Romantic Relationships

Streeter, Sybil Anne (2009) Odor, Adult Attachment and Emotions in Romantic Relationships. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study explored the reasons why people commonly smell the clothing of loved ones. Romantic partners' scents were compared with (1) that of an unknown other person (placebo) or (2) a neutral odor (control) to examine their effect on anxiety, negative affect and feelings of comfort. Adult attachment was also measured dimensionally with the Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) Relationship Questionnaire (RQ). All participants rated themselves on each attachment dimension (Secure, Fearful, Preoccupied and Dismissing). Participants presented with the scent of their partner experienced significant increases in comfort when compared to both placebo and control odor, and decreased anxiety and negative affect when compared to neutral odor. Scent of partners and unknown persons were equivalent in their ability to decrease the aversive emotions. Highly Secure participants showed improved comfort and reduced anxiety regardless of condition. Low Fearfulness predicted recovery from anxiety and negative affect regardless of odor. Participants higher in fearfulness had greater decreases in anxiety in the partner condition than those in the control condition. Highly Preoccupied individuals presented with their partner's scent experienced reduction of anxiety when compared to the scent of another person (but not when compared to neutral). An interaction was observed for reduction of negative affect wherein highly preoccupied individuals experienced greater buffering of anxiety when exposed to their partners scent and less when exposed to the scent of an unknown person, whereas those lower on preoccupation did not differ in their response to the scents. Human scents accentuated the decrease in anxiety for those high in fearfulness. Results are discussed in terms of "olfactory comfort," and implications for affect regulation are addressed.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Streeter, Sybil Annesasst89@pitt.eduSASST89
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcBurney, Donald HMcBurney@pitt.eduMCBURNEY
Committee MemberVotruba-al, Elizabethevotruba@pitt.eduEVOTRUBA
Committee MemberSchmidt, Karen Lkschmidt@pitt.eduKSCHMIDT
Committee MemberJennings,
Date: 29 January 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 21 August 2008
Approval Date: 29 January 2009
Submission Date: 4 December 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: adult attachment; odor; emotions; olfaction
Other ID:, etd-12042008-115843
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:08
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:53


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