Scientists Have Some Thoughts On Why You Can't Stop Touching Your Face

15 April 2020
Health, Coronavirus, Face, Covid-19, Coronavirus Outbreak, Rafael Nadal, Sports, Self-care
Image: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

With the unprecedented rise of COVID-19, we have all been told to wash our hands and stop touching our faces to prevent the disease’s spread, but why can’t we do it?

As coronavirus sweeps the globe sending countries into lockdown and stock markets into panic, the common consensus from medical professionals on how to prevent the spread of the disease has been pretty simple: 1) wash your hands for twenty seconds and 2) stop touching your face.

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Now, if you were raised with decent manners and a respect for (very) basic hygiene the first step is pretty easy, but as more and more people are finding, the second one is nearly impossible. Countless politicians and medical professionals cautioning about the importance of restricting the old self caress of the face have been caught out doing just that, and we are certain that you have noticed that not touching your face is proving to be harder than copping some archive Raf Simons.

But, why do we touch our faces so much? The truth is we don’t really know for sure, but scientists have developed some possible theories.

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A number of scientists have hypothesised that we touch our faces more when we are stressed out. In 2014, one study found that foetuses in the womb would touch their faces while they were experiencing stress indicating that it may be an innate practice that starts even before we are born. Good luck getting over that.

Another study found that the same went for adults. The researchers blasted uncomfortable sounds at a group of 10 people while they tried to do a memory test and found that when the pressure increased, the ‘guinea-pigs’ touched their faces more often. The scientists speculated that touching our faces may be a way of controlling difficult emotions and situations.

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Scent Testing

This one is a little weirder. You know how animals will smell each other when they meet? Well, apparently we could be doing the same thing. A study from 2015 found that their test group often brought their hands to their noses after meeting people of the same gender and inhaled. Maybe we all have an instinctual superpower for sniffing out rivals and weirdos. Regardless, you should be able to avoid this one by rocking an epic elbow bump or foot tap when meeting your next newbie.

Feeding Habits

The third main reason that scientists have theorised for touching our faces is that it’s a habit we developed in utero to help train us for feeding when we left the womb. One study found that babies' brains light up when they are touched on the face and this is critical for breastfeeding habits in their early days. Another study showed that foetuses open their mouths when they are about to touch their mouth areas. These studies indicate that maybe touching our faces a whole heap is just another annoying habit leftover from when we were trying to figure out how to eat stuff ten times a day.

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Whatever the theory, it is incredibly hard to stop touching our faces, but as the coronavirus spreads we all need to do our part to try and prevent it. So, why not try meditating to reduce your stress levels or figure out some new, cool ways to greet people that doesn’t involve dapping them up. Let's face it, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Via GQ Australia