The Gross Thing You Probably Do After Shaking Someone's Hand

And most of us don't even realize we're doing it.

woman surprised to learn people sniff their hands after shaking hands Getty Images

In the world where hand sanitizer, body washes and deodorant are pretty much a given part of our hygiene routine, many of us tend to forget that we humans are all really just gross — even if very well perfumed and coifed — animals.

Well, the researchers behind a study have come out to remind us that we tend to do one particularly gross thing after shaking hands with someone — and it's actually quite similar to what dogs do when they smell each other's behinds. Not only that, but you probably don't even realize you're doing it pretty much each and every time!


What is the super gross — and surprisingly super common — human behavior in question?

A study from a team of scientists at Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, published in eLife found that people will inadvertently sniff their own hand after they shake the hand of someone else.

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That's right.

The researchers secretly filmed 271 people shaking hands with someone and found that after doing so, people tend to touch their nose twice as much than they would normally in order to smell the hand of the person they just shook hands with.

And the weirdness doesn't stop with this one unconscious sniff.

It turns out the way people sniff their hands changes according to the gender of the person they are shaking hands with.

Both men and women spend more time smelling the hand they didn't use for a handshake more if they just shook hands with someone of the same gender.

But if they shake hands with someone of the opposite gender, they will focus on sniffing the hand they did used when making contact during the greeting.


"After handshakes within gender, subjects increased sniffing of their own right shaking hand by more than 100%," the study reports. "In contrast, after handshakes across gender, subjects increased sniffing of their own left non-shaking hand by more than 100%.

hand sniffing after shakingPhoto: eLife/Creative Commons

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Sniffing your hands in this way is a phenomenon that researchers refer to as chemical signaling, a type of communication that goes on with chemicals that people are mostly unaware of.

Of course, we all know that scent definitely plays a role in attraction.

For example, it's been discovered women can tell whether a man is attracted to her through the smell of his sweat — seriously!

Gotta love weird science!


*Grabs hand sanitizer*

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Nicole Weaver is a love and entertainment writer. Follow her on Twitter.