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Surprise: Your sense of smell isn’t just for fresh coffee and loganberry candles…

A recent study by the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel suggests that after a handshake, people put their hands near their noses and sniff to pick up scents from someone they just met. It sounds crazy, but when you observe dogs, cats, and other animals that overtly sniff out a newcomer, the theory may not seem as far-fetched.

First, researchers verified the belief that specialized chemicals – the ones that dogs and rats use for social signaling – were present on human hands, and there was a significant amount of it. Next, the research team filmed participants in the first minute after shaking the hand of a newcomer. The results were quite surprising. People sniffed their hands more than twice as much as they did before the handshake! According to scientists, this is clearly a form of “chemosignaling behavior” – just like that of dogs, cats, rats, and other mammals.

Other scientists agree with the study’s results, noting that these findings fit with the general idea that there is much more “chemical communication” going on between humans than we realize.

Think about that the next time you shake someone’s hand – or greet a dog.

Image: Shaking Hands, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from zeevveez’s photostream.

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