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Why Can’t We Stop Touching Our Face Despite Knowing the Risks?

In the face of the global Coronavirus situation, people are recommended to be hygienic and not to put their hands on their faces. But in fact this is a very difficult habit to quit.

Research by the University of New South Wales shows that their volunteers, who are medical students, on average for an hour-long lecture, unconsciously touch their faces 23 times.

This proves that even if you have an understanding of the harmful effects of this action, you still cannot stop the behavior of spreading bacteria.

Turns out, this habit has been around ever since we were born.

Why Can't We Stop Touching Our Face Despite Knowing the Risks?
Science says we can’t completely eliminate the habit of putting our hands on our faces.

Hand touch face from the womb

According to Wired , an ultrasound scientific survey of 15 women between 24 and 36 weeks of pregnancy showed that the fetus from the womb had begun to touch the face.

Moreover, they also know how to touch the face with their left hand when the mother feels stressed. Another similar study found that for mothers who smoked during pregnancy, their fetuses tended to touch their faces more easily than non-smokers.

Humans are not the only creatures to suffer from this habit. In a 1984 article, researchers thought that gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees often touched their faces like humans do.

The article also points out that humans and primates often touch their left hand on their face instead of their right hand, as a natural tendency.

In addition, other animals like dogs or cats have the same habit. For animals or “wash your face” like cats, squirrels, this may be the action associated with the scent. Squirrels often perform this behavior to help them spread the smell around the body from the secretory glands.

Why Can't We Stop Touching Our Face Despite Knowing the Risks?
When stressed, the brain emits signals that lead to self-touching behaviors that regulate emotions. 

Touching your face is also an unconscious act that signals to people around you to be aware of yourself. In addition, it sometimes serves social purposes.

In a 2015 article in the eLife journal , Israeli scientists connected volunteers with a nasal flow meter. They then secretly recorded the group meeting volunteering with other groups of people and performing common social communication methods. Experimental results show that volunteers often put their hands on their noses after shaking hands with people of the same gender to check their scents.

‘Need more touches’

ouching your face also helps people regulate stress and shape memory, instead of the way to communicate. This is done daily by humans, usually in stressful and unconscious situations.

Scientists in Germany analyzed the electrical brain activity of 10 volunteers while completing a memory test. As a result, people who show signs of stress often touch their nose, cheeks, or chin. According to researchers, when stressed, the brain emits signals that lead to “self-touching” behaviors that regulate emotions.

Why Can't We Stop Touching Our Face Despite Knowing the Risks?
Touching your face is an unconscious act that signals to people around you to be aware of yourself.

“Psychologically, most people don’t associate the risk of infection or the threat of illness with their faces. Not only that, it is difficult to force yourself to touch my face less because suppressing emotions is not a way to give up the habit, ”said Kevin Chapman, psychologist and director of the Center for Anxiety Disorder and Related syndromes in Kentucky, USA said.

Chapman also said to limit hand contact to the face, we should take more flexible measures. Instead of telling yourself, “Don’t touch your face today,” tell yourself “I need to pay more attention to my face today.”

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