Do We Touch Enough? | Industry New Jersey | September/October 2015 | On the Science and Visceral Thrills of Making Contact
From the article, excerptified:
I was reading somewhere that societies in which people touch each other socially are happier than those in which social touching is more shunned. It is an idea that makes intuitive sense, because of my knowledge of the inherent niceness of touching.
University of California at Berkeley researcher Dacher Keltner writes about pioneering 60s study by Sidney Jourard. “[He] studied the conversations of friends in different parts of the world as they sat in a café together. He observed these conversations for the same amount of time in each of the different countries. What did he find? In England, the two friends touched each other zero times. In the United States, in bursts of enthusiasm, we touched each other twice.” Meanwhile, in France, people touched each other 110 times, and in Puerto Rico, friends touched 180 times.
Touching communicates things often more quickly than other means. Dr. Keltner (and Dr. Matthew Hertenstein) conducted a study in which people touching through barriers, trying to convey in one second an emotion. The responder then had to guess at what the person touching was trying to convey: among them anger, fear, happiness, sadness, embarrassment, love, and gratitude. People touched through squeezes, pokes, taps, tickles and strokes. The easiest feeling to convey to someone by touch alone was compassion.
Studies have also found that athletic teams do better when they are socially bonded through touching, like high fives and chest bumps, and that babies grow more slowly when isolated from touch in incubators.
We have a taboo against social touching, although it could be called a pillar of social development.
Since I’ve learned about this I’ve noticed the phenomenon of touching more, and automatically became more touchy with people.