Dr Arnaud Wisman

Lecturer in Psychology,
Internationalisation, Erasmus and European Degrees Co-ordinator
+44 (0)1227 823096
Dr Arnaud Wisman


Arnaud is a Lecturer in Psychology and Internationalisation, Erasmus and European Degrees Co-ordinator in the School of Psychology.

Arnaud is interested in Evolutionary and Social Psychology. He uses evolutionary theory to derive predictions and account for observable phenomena in individual differences, chemosignal communication, self-regulation, mating strategies, and sexuality.

Key publications

  • Wisman, A., & Thomas, A. G. (2022). In the Heat of the Short-Term Moment: Evidence that Heightened Sexual Arousal Increases Short-Term Mating Motivation Among Men. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 1-15.
  • Wisman, A., & Shrira, I. (2020). Sexual Chemosignals: Evidence that Men Process Olfactory Signals of Women’s Sexual Arousal. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49, 1505-1516. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-01588-8
  • Perach, R., & Wisman, A. (2019). Can Creativity Beat Death? A Review and Evidence on the Existential Anxiety Buffering Functions of Creative Achievement. Journal of Creative Behavior, 53, 193-210. doi:10.1002/jocb.171
  • Wisman, A., & Heflick, N. A. (2016). Hopelessly Mortal: The Role of Mortality Salience, Immortality and Trait Self-esteem in Personal Hope. Cognition and Emotion, 30, 868-889. doi:10.1080/02699931.2015.1031643
  • Wisman, A., & Shrira, I. (2015). The Smell of Death: Evidence that Putrescine Elicits Threat Management Mechanisms. Frontiers in Psychology, 1-26. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01274
  • Wisman, A., Heflick, N. A., & Goldenberg, J. L. (2015). The Great Escape: The Role of Self-esteem and Self-related Cognition in Terror Management. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1-48. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.05.006

Research interests

Arnaud is particularly interested in Evolutionary and Social Psychology. Most of his current research examines the role of sexual arousal in human mating motivation. He is also interested in the self (e.g., self-awareness, self-esteem, self escape, existential self-regulation); automatic (unconscious) behaviour; human mating strategies; and the psychology of scent. He is also fascinated by ‘the bigger questions of life’, looking at universal aspects of human behaviour, emotion, and cognition.

  • Human mating motivation

  There is a lot of research into human sexual mating strategies, and how our preferences for a partner might be influenced by factors such as beauty, wealth and age. It is understood that both men and women have a mixed preferences when it comes to dating - some people are more inclined to remain with one person, others prefer shorter relationships, and some prefer a mixture of the two. But are these preferences inflexible? In recent research we found that in the context of sexual arousal most men preferred a short-term date, like a one-night stand, over something more long term. Interestingly, we also found that it did not matter if men were in a long-term relationship or not – sexual arousal still increased the desire for a ‘fling’.’ We are currently further investigating the role of sexual arousal in cognition and behaviours related to human mating motivation.  

  • The psychology of ‘scent’

It is well documented that scent, and the olfactory system, is crucial for the survival of most mammals. Scents can communicate many things such as danger, whether something is edible, whether a partner is suitable, and even how others feel. Interestingly, the latest research suggests that humans, too, can communicate various emotions such as fear and stress via scent. However, it is still largely a mystery as to what role scents or chemo-signals play in human behaviour and cognition. Do the scents of others affect our evaluation, and motivation? Do we have innate responses to certain scents? Does scent play a pivotal role in sexual attraction?

  • Existential self-regulation

People evolved with the advanced cognitive ability to form and maintain abstract representations of the self. This is handy because among other things it allows us to anticipate future events, modify our behaviour, and reflect upon ourselves. However the self can also be a source of worry and existential concern. People may worry about their future, how they look, their achievements, a close relationship, or their ultimate fate. Thus, ironically, people are equipped with a brain that is a burden and a blessing at the same time. As has been pointed out by several theorists, one way to escape worry is to escape ‘the self’. Existential threats can increase people's motivation to engage in maladaptive hedonic behaviours. For instance, we have found that existential threats (e.g., thought about mortality) increase people’s alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating, impulsiveness, and engagement in interpersonal behaviours that involve anonymity. Currently we investigate whether similarly hedonic behaviour (e.g., gambling, drinking, viewing pornography) functions as an escape from adverse self-awareness when people experience existential concerns when reminded of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Arnaud teaches a range of undergraduate modules including:

  • PSYC6080: Evolution & Universal Motivation


Arnaud welcomes applications from (prospective) students who wish to carry out research on topics related to the human mating motivation, chemosignals, and existential self-regulation.

Current research student

  • Brad Johnson: Putting a face to death to find hope in life

Past research student

  • Dr Rotem Perach (School of Psychology Departmental Studentship): The psychological functions of cultural legacy: A terror management investigation of creative achievement and symbols of motherhood 


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