Give Me a Hand! The Surprising Research on Shaking Hands and Hormones

Give Me a Hand! The Surprising Research on Shaking Hands and Hormones
Photo by Cytonn Photography / Unsplash

In business and in life, nothing signals to another person who you are and how you're feeling about yourself like a handshake.

Whether it's an '80s power move or a dainty hello, the handshake is foundational and ubiquitous throughout the world.

The most 80's of handshakes.

But beyond the grip, there's a whole lot more being communicated through this common greeting. According to research done by Noam Sobel, the handshake is actually made up of two crucial maneuvers. The actual grip/shake and then, separately, both parties touching their faces.

According to Noem:

During the experiment, around 280 people were greeted either with or without a handshake. They were filmed using hidden cameras and observed to see how many times they touched their face. One finding of the study was that people constantly sniff their own hands – keeping a hand at their nose about 22% of the time. Subjects greeted with a handshake significantly increased touching of their faces with their right hand.

But why the sniff/touch?

This is where it gets scientifically and psycho-socially interesting.

Hormones! Much like the way two dogs might engage in some mutual butt-sniffing, human beings have an introductory ritual that involves a healthy dose of nose play. It appears that after touching another human being, we take away a fair amount of chemicals that can signal to us everything from whether they'd be a suitable mate, to their gut health, or even if they might be dangerous.

Have you ever shaken someone's hand and instantly developed strong feelings, positive or negative? If so, it may not be some otherworldly "intuition," it might just be some of those crazy hormones you sniff right after. Weirdo.