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Wed Mar 4, 2015, 02:42 PM

The secret, smelly science of handshakes

Businessmen, politicians and self-important college freshmen, take note: That firm-but-friendly handshake you’ve been perfecting over the course of your career — the one that’s supposed to say “I am a proper, professional person doing proper, professional things” — conveys more than you think it does.

Far from being merely a polite greeting between two members of civilized society, a handshake may be an evolutionary adaptation to promote the exchange of body odors between acquaintances. In other words, it’s the human equivalent of two dogs sniffing each other’s hindquarters.

Perhaps President Obama’s much-discussed fist bumps were the right way to go all along.

These revelations about the smelly scientific origins of handshakes were published by the Olfactory Lab at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science. There, researcher Idan Frumin and his team examined the handshake behavior of nearly 300 test subjects (who were not told that they were participating in a study on body odor). Researchers would come into the examination room and introduce themselves, some shaking the subject’s hand, some not.


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