Do you shake or bump?

Laid back African American dudes and dudettes from the streets of New York look cool when they wear their baseball cap backwards, fold their arms, lean back and say, “What up?” On the other hand, Anglo-Australian late teens doing the same thing just look as if they are over-tired and have a mild speech impediment. There are some attitudes and practices that only certain groups can carry off with any charm and/or success. The “fist bump” may be an exception to this. Probably originating with NBA basketball players, the fist bump is replacing the handshake in many areas and according to new research there might be a good reason for this.

The handshake is evolutionarily quite old. Chimps do it and there is evidence of it dating back to 1800 BCE in human cultures. Evolutionary biologists suspect that handshakes gave rise to high fives and then the “fist bump”, where the participants knock the knuckles of their fist gently together. Whatever the exact origin of the fist bump it does seem poised to take over from the handshake, at least among certain sections of the population.

The new study involved researchers wearing gloves and dipping them into a broth containing the bacterium E. coli. They then exchanged handshakes, high fives and fist bumps. The gloves were tested after ea h of these greetings to see how many bacteria were transferred.

It emerged that handshaking offered the highest rate of bacterial transfer. High fiving, on the other hand, reduced bacterial transfer by 50 per cent compared to a handshake while fist bumping transferred 90 per cent fewer bacteria than the handshake. As a point of side interest, the researchers also noted that a firm handshake transferred more bacteria than a less firm one. So while the “limp Lenny” handshake may not impress too many folk, at least it reduces your bacterial exposure.

The bad news then is that the person who gave you a fist bump this morning may not have been doing been doing because they thought you had the street cool vibe of an NBA basketballer. The good news is, who cares…at least you got less bacteria out of the interaction.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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