Decision Neuroscience Lab contributes to Science Gallery Melbourne exhibition

Blood. We all have it, but most of us are happy with not being confronted with it, or even think about it too much. However, when we do have to see or smell blood, reactions can be divers – we might be disgusted or repelled, but we might also be energised and feel old instincts awakening. The Science Gallery Melbourne has devoted their first exhibition to the topic: “Blood – attract and repel” is playing with different associations, contexts and emotions in which blood plays a major role, and the exhibition has attracted a significant crowd since it opened its doors in August.

The Decision Neuroscience Lab has participated in the exhibition by contributing more science to the gallery experience. Led by the gallery producer Lizzie Crouch, we collaborated with the artists Ollie Cotsaftis and Sarah McArthur, who have developed an interactive artwork, which allows visitors to smell blood and to reflect on the emotions that this might trigger.

With the help of our great students and research interns Will Turner, Pat Summerell, Elektra Schubert, Anne Loeffler, Ariel Goh, Alex Diaz, Elysha Ringin, Milan Andrejevic and Carmen Lynch, we took this idea one step further and conducted a small study in which we exposed volunteers, who visited the gallery, to either the chemical responsible for the smell of blood, or to a neutral control smell, before they stated their attitudes about different foods. Some of these foods were meat dishes at various stages of processing, while the other foods were vegetarian dishes.

So, what do you think: Does the smell of blood make us hungrier for meat? Or does it repel us, pushing us away from the meat and towards the veggies? Hopefully we will know the answer very soon, but one thing we know already: we had a bloody good time at the Science Gallery Melbourne.