So I’m sitting here watching the men’s high bar finals in gymnastics, and the soles of my feet are SO. SWEATY.
I’ve written about the science of sweating before, with a theory as to why humans sweat so much more, than say, a dog does. Well, here’s another sweaty puzzler–why do our hands and feet sweat when we’re nervous? I definitely get clammy with any slightly scary stimulus, especially anything involving leaving the ground: looking down from a height, quarry jumping, climbing trees, etc. (Also apparently when watching people flip around on the high bar. Remember that post about misplaced empathy? Yeah.)
But there might be an evolutionary explanation for this! Maybe the reason why we sweat on our palms and feet when we’re nervous is because of the fight-or-flight response. Think about back in the day, when our ancestors got their adrenaline rushes escaping from predators. A bit of dampness on our extremities gives us a little more friction/grip action, and might make it easier to, you know, swing from tree to tree if being pursued. If that biological pathway stuck around, there you have it. I watch men in leotards miss falling from great heights by a fingertip and boom, my hands and feet start sweating profusely, just in case I might have to run for it later.
It’s a bit of a stretch, but I can’t deny that right now my hands and feet are feeling especially grippy. Also, now that gymnastics and swimming are over you won’t have to read another post about the Olympics from me! And then I can get to sleep at a normal hour!