Little touches mean a lot

Clockwise from top left: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images; Mark Avery/Reuters; Vivek Prakash/Reuters Charles; Dharapak/Associated Press

Tactile Communication, Cooperation, and Performance.

A quick hug, fist pound, high five or belly bump can communicate a wide range of emotions, sometimes more accurately than words. Psychologists have long studied the grunts and winks of nonverbal communication, the vocal tones and facial expressions that carry emotion. A warm tone of voice, a hostile stare — both have the same meaning in Terre Haute or Timbuktu, and are among dozens of signals that form a universal human vocabulary.

But in recent years some researchers have begun to focus on a different, often more subtle kind of wordless communication: physical contact. Momentary touches, they say — whether an exuberant high five, a warm hand on the shoulder, or a creepy touch to the arm — can communicate an even wider range of emotion than gestures or expressions, and sometimes do so more quickly and accurately than words.

Read the whole news article here: Mind – New Research Focuses on the Power of Physical Contact – or find the research article: Kraus, M. W., Huang, C., & Keltner, D. (2010). Tactile communication, cooperation, and performance: An ethological study of the NBA Emotion, 10(5), 745–749. doi:10.1037/a0019382

Gert-Jan Pepping is an Associate Professor in Human Movement at the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences of AUstralian Catholic University, Brisbane, Australia.

Posted in Science General, Sport Science

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