Good news! If you’ve always had a secret suspicion that everyone else has softer skin than you, rejoice oh sufferer of a #firstworldproblem! You’re not crazy: Research has been done into our perception of other people’s epidermal smoothness, and it actually is a thing. Even better? It’s also an illusion.
New research from the journal Current Biology looked into a phenomenon you might find familiar—why whenever you touch someone, from your grandmother’s hand to your partner’s face to that baby’s adorable elbow dimples—does it seem like their skin is so soft, so smooth, compared to your own scratchy, rough, Gobi desert of an arm?
When the scientists behind this study asked a series of participants to rate the skin of another human, they judged it to be “soft”, every single time, even when empirically, that wasn’t the case! The researchers from University College London posit that this illusion is a way of encouraging us to touch each other (mind out of gutter please) and form the social bonds that that creates.
They’ve named this phenomenon the “social softeness illusion”…although we’re pretty sure in the case of babies, those chubby cheeks really are softer than a fine spun piece of cashmere.