Pilot research
Sneezing while hands engaged?
Question: Do sneezes occur more often when both hands
are in the act of gripping?

Sneeze Data: Results and some thoughts.

Sneezing; does the urge strike more often when your hands are engaged or
when they are empty - or is there no difference between the two states?
I became curious when I started to notice that my hands seemed annoyingly
occupied whenever the urge to sneeze hit.
In a bygone age, I'd just shrug my shoulders and continue on with my life,
but the advent of the internet and quick access to friends allows me -
with their forbearance - to satisfy my erratic scientific whims.

Twenty-five individuals from various parts of the USA partook. Of these, 
sixteen returned satisfactory data. Eight data submissions were either 
incomplete, gathered in a too haphazard way, or the subject misunderstood 
the question. This was my fault. I did not express precisely that I wished to 
know the moment of the sneeze urge, not if you could get a hanky to your 
nose in time to stem the sneeze.

Here is the gathered data:


Hands yes Hands
Sum Total Yes% No%
7 19 26 27 73
78 37 115 68 32
6 12 18 33 67
28 7 35 80 20
20 5 25 80 20
35 5 40 88 12
25 20 45 56 44
10 9 19 47 53
64 14 78 82 18
29 40 69 42 58
5 12 17 29 71
24 7 31 77 23
3 1 4 75 25
14 2 16 88 12
8 2 10 80 20
6 8 14 43 57
      62.1875 37.8125

On average, individuals were overcome with the urge to sneeze whilst hands were engaged 62 % of the time, almost twice as often as while hands were not engaged.

What does it mean?

I started this data gathering wondering if the hands-sneeze relationship was real or an artifact.
If real, it might suggest an evolutionary manifestation of airborne germs and viruses.
Is the infestation capable of stimulating the sneeze? It would be a
useful device for assuring its spread and survival. A person who's hands are occupied when the sneeze urge strikes, is overall less likely to interrupt the sneeze ejection of germs than someone with their hands free.

One of the seemingly non-existing 'filters' that the data ought to be
strained through is the average amount of time that a Human Beings hands are occupied during the day. To date, I have not been able to discover this information on the web or querying ergonomic newsgroups.

On the plus side, if there is absolutely no correlation between sneezing and hands, then the data could be the perfect vehicle to determine that basic ergonomic question - how often do Humans have something in their hands?

What now? One of the advantages of teaching in an online environment is that these students are of a generation continually connected online to their friends via an instant messenger. If I were to beg my class to ask their online friends to join in and they in turn ask their friends to participate, the result could be a respectably large amount of data gathered from an information ripple effect.

Finally, if you have any thoughts or comments on this subject, I will collect and share them to any other contributing participants.


Stephen Goodfellow 2004

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