In this era of COVID-19 you have a hard time avoiding advice about washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face. As a public health matter, it is clearly good advice. I’m all for both of these things.
As a psychologist, however, I can tell you that “good advice” is one of the weakest forms of behavior change known to science. Any parent reading this blog realizes that, of course. Let me reconfirm the obvious: just telling people what to do is often useless. And that is especially true when the advice has to do with mindless, habitual actions, like biting your nails; saying “you know”; leaving the toilet seat up; or, well, touching your face.
Let’s start with some facts: People touch their face. A lot. I mean a lot, a lot. I mean nearly constantly. I should know. I’m one of a small number of scientists who ever seriously studied it.