People find the skin of others’ softer than their own

soft hands

Your significant other’s skin might not be as soft as you suspect it to be. Researchers find that people tend to perceive the skin of others’ as softer than their own. 

Josep Ma. Rosell/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Soft skin may be just an illusion. People often perceive the skin of others as softer and smoother than their own, whether or not that’s the case, researchers report September 10 in Current Biology.

Psychologists at University College London recruited 133 volunteers to rate the softness of other people’s skin in relation to their own, as well as to rate the softness of different surfaces and fabrics. Even when there wasn’t an objective difference between skin textures, participants consistently ranked others’ skin as softer than theirs.

The researchers speculate that this “social softness illusion” may activate pleasure and reward networks in the brain and could be fundamentally rooted in how we bond with other people. 

Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson is the associate digital editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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