The Very Weird Thing You Probably Do After Meeting Someone

Photographed by Maria Del Rio.
In today's weird science news: A new study suggests we subconsciously sniff our hands after a handshake, reports New Scientist. In the study, published this week in the journal eLife, researchers secretly filmed 271 participants for one minute before and after they shook hands with someone. Participants touched their noses for about 22% of the time they spent alone before shaking hands. However, after the handshakes, that percentage of time more than doubled (to about 55%) — and an interesting pattern emerged: Male and female participants sniffed their non-shaking hand more often when they had shaken hands with someone of the same gender. But, when it was someone of the other gender, they sniffed the same hand they had used to shake. Unfortunately, the study doesn't explicitly mention participants' sexual orientations, which may or may not be a factor here. Right now, you are probably swearing that you've never done this. And, rest assured, we swore right along with you. But, the point is that participants weren't aware of their hand-sniffing tendencies. So, if we are among the hand-sniffing masses, we probably don't remember doing it, either. The researchers suggest that this is evidence of chemical signaling that may play a role in our social behaviors in general. That idea seems a little far-fetched considering what we know about human pheromones, but as Charles Wysocki, PhD, of the Monell Science Center told New Scientist, "There is a lot more chemical communication going on" than we're aware of. So, we might as well get a big 'ol whiff.

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