Hands On Research: The Science of Touch

Dacher Keltner, ‘Hands On Research: The Science of Touch’, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research, The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley (SEPTEMBER 29, 2010)

Incredible emotional and physical health

In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health. (…) We built a barrier in our lab that separated two strangers from each other. One person stuck his or her arm through the barrier and waited. The other person was given a list of emotions, and he or she had to try to convey each emotion through a one-second touch to the stranger’s forearm. The person whose arm was being touched had to guess the emotion. (…) Given the number of emotions being considered, the odds of guessing the right emotion by chance were about eight percent. But remarkably, participants guessed compassion correctly nearly 60 percent of the time. (…) In other research I’ve found that people can not only identify love, gratitude, and compassion from touches but can differentiate between those kinds of touch. (…) “Touch therapy” or “massage therapy” may sound like some weird (…) idea, but it’s got hard science on its side. It’s not just good for our muscles; it’s good for our entire physical and mental health.