Well, ladies, here we were all thinking we had control over our bodies and could resist the inherent charms that all men possess. Wrong! When they come in the room our faces practically melt off of our bodies with excitement. Or is it stress? Who knows, but a new study found that for whatever reason when a man touches us, we get hottttt—as in the temperature of our face goes up and we often don't even realize it.
The researchers wanted to examine how emotions affected facial temperatures. So they took heat-showing pictures of two groups of young, straight women while they had a "standard interaction" with an experimenter, either a male or a female. This involved using a light probe that supposedly measured skin color but was really just a ruse to allow the experimenter to touch the girl on the arm, the palm, the face, and the chest. (No, not that part of the chest.)
What they found was that regardless of the gender of the experimenter, the participant's skin temperature went up about a tenth of a degree Celsius on average when they were touched. Touches to the arm or palm caused the smallest increase, while touching the face and chest caused the biggest increase in heat. But they found that when the experimenter was male, the jump in temperature was about three times larger. Wowza. The girls' faces and chests got about .54 degrees Fahrenheit (0.3 Celsius) hotter when a male experimenter touched them in that area, but some of them saw changes of almost two degrees. Smokin' hot.
Researcher Amanda Hahn, of the University of St. Andrews, said of this large shift in temperature,
This is the sort of magnitude of change you would see when you are doing an explicit emotional stressor. We weren't manipulating their emotional or affective state, it was a subtle social interaction with the experimenter … but they had pretty large reactions.
So, in other words, they weren't outright scaring or stressing them, but the women had that level of reaction anyway. Maybe because it's a little bit unnerving when a strange dude randomly touches your face? Oddly, most of the women didn't even realize their faces were heating up, and, according to Hahn, "Only about a quarter of the sample reported feeling any emotional change. The rest were consciously unaffected by the interaction." Huh. So it's not like our faces are getting hot because we're sitting there stressing out about whether this random dude thinks our skin looks too dry to be fuckable. (Yes, that is a thing you can worry about if you really put your mind to it.) It basically seems like our faces just kind of steam up on their own, whether we're thinking about anything related to the guy or not.
Unfortunately there's no answer to the all-important question of whether anyone else notices it's happening. It's possible that this is some kind of secret social message our body is sending out. "Keep touching my face so I don't get frostbite on my nose," our ancestors' bodies might have been begging the stranger they just met during a blizzard. Or it's possible that it doesn't mean jack. Either way, now you'll have something else to obsess about next time the doctor or the guy who's selling you glasses touches your face. OMG, DID HE NOTICE THAT MY FACE JUST GOT A TINY BIT WARMER? He did, didn't he? And now he thinks I love him when I actually don't. Or do I? Maybe my face is trying to tell me that this guy is the one. And then you can just continue this thought process until your brain overheats and your face actually does melt clean off. Thanks, Science!
The Touch of a Man Makes Women Hot [LiveScience]
Image via Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock.