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Longer handshakes can trigger anxiety – study

Handshakes lasting more than three seconds can trigger anxiety, according to a study.

The study by the University of Dundee's school of social sciences found that business meetings and relationships could also be negatively affected.

In the study, 36 people were interviewed by a researcher about their career prospects before being introduced to a second researcher.

The second researcher would either shake their hand for less than three seconds – described as the normal length of time; for more than three seconds, or not at all.

Their reactions were then analysed.


After the longer handshake, participants showed less interactional enjoyment, laughed less and reported increased anxiety.

After the shorter handshake, they did not smile as much but said the handshake felt more natural.

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No changes were noted after the no-handshake.

Dr Emese Nagy, a reader in psychology who led the study, said: "While shaking hands for longer may appear to be a warm gesture on the surface, we found that they negatively affected the behaviour of the recipient, even after the handshake was finished.

"Politicians are particularly keen on prolonged handshakes, which are often used an expression of warmth but also as a means of demonstrating authority.

"However, our findings suggest that while doing so might look impressive for the cameras, this behaviour could potentially jeopardise the quality of their working and personal relationships from the beginning, which could have repercussions for millions of people."

The results are published in the journal Perceptual And Motor Skills.

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