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Ever Wondered Why Your Fingers Wrinkle in Water?

Nov 20, 2020

By Naadiya Adams

It’s probably the first scientific question any child asks their parents says Psychologist and Cognitive Neuroscientist, Nick Davis.

Why do my fingers wrinkle when wet?

While at the Science Museum in London, Davis undertook to answer this question through an experiment. His hypothesis – The wrinkles are an adaptive phenomenon the skin on our fingers undergo to better grip objects with wet hands.

500 test subjects underwent the experiment where they allowed their fingers to get wet and wrinkly, and then went on to lift a metal object.

“If an object is wet, the friction of the surface will be less so you have to squeeze it a bit harder and so what I thought would happen was when people have wrinkly fingers they would use less force than necessary to grip an object if they were picking it up, and so that is exactly what we found,” said Davis.

The outcome – the wrinkles form to allow for better grip and less use of force when lifting wet objects.

Prompted by the nervous system, the sweat gland on the fingertips absorb a small amount of water and causes the blood vessels to contract which pulls the fingertips inwards, causing a ripple effect.

Listen to the full interview here:

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