Academic journal article Science Scope

Why Wet Feels Wet

Academic journal article Science Scope

Why Wet Feels Wet

Article excerpt

Human sensitivity to wetness plays a role in many aspects of daily life. Whether feeling humidity, sweat, or a damp towel, we often encounter stimuli that feel wet. Though it seems simple, feeling that something is wet is quite a feat because our skin does not have receptors that sense wetness. The concept of wetness, in fact, may be more of a "perceptual illusion" that our brain evokes based on our prior experiences with stimuli that we have learned are wet.

So, how would you know if you have sat on a wet seat or walked through a puddle? Researchers have recently proposed that wetness perception is intertwined with our ability to sense cold temperature and tactile sensations such as pressure and texture. They also observed the role of A-nerve fibers--sensory nerves that carry temperature and tactile information from the skin to the brain--and the effect of reduced nerve activity on wetness perception. Lastly, they hypothesized that because hairy skin is more sensitive to thermal stimuli, it would be more perceptive to wetness than glabrous skin (e.g., palms of the hands, soles of the feet), which is more sensitive to tactile stimuli. …

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