Description: OK, what is the point of staying two arms lengths (one bicycle length) away from each other in these days of Coivd-19? Well, so we do not pass the virus but in effect, so we do not touch, even via a few drops at a short distance. While we are self-isolating, we can stay connected via phone, virtual meeting systems or social media so all is well right? Well, sort of, but look at this a bit more closely. We distance so we do not touch. By not touching (aside from not passing coronavirus or other viruses) what else are we missing? In other words, how important is touch to human well-being? Very early research by Harry Harlow that involved separating feeding part of parenting in Macaque monkeys from the haptic (touch) parts showed that while feeding is important it was the contact, the touch, that most strongly drove early attachment security in infant Macaques. Videos of Harlow’s work are hard to watch because of how much is missing from the lives of his tiny barely mothered infant Macaques but what does Psychological research since Harlow have to tells us about the value and role of touch in human mental health and well-being, especially now that we are potentially getting a lot less of it than usual? Have a look through the linked article and, while doing so, think about your current touch quotient as compared to a couple of months ago. The differences might be important.
Source: The Psychology of Human Touch: Why Physically Connecting With Others Improves Well-Being, Steven Handel, The Emotion Machine.
Date: March 29, 2020
So, are you now worried about your current touch quotient? The phrase, “look but don’t touch” is typically used when we want people to be careful when they are within touching distance of something fragile or precious. We have all, essentially, been told to do this a LOT more than we perhaps did even a few weeks ago in relation to other people and it is worth reflecting upon the consequences this may be having for us. It is not clear what the “work around” for this current enforced haptic shortfall might look like (search haptic gloves online for an odd possible future) but it helps to notice that we might need to figure one out if we are to stay healthy mentally and physically.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are some of the many (non-offensive) ways that touch is used in our regular social interactions?
- What sorts of things, psychologically speaking, does touch signify for humans?
- What sorts of things might we safely do to address our current touch quotient shortfalls?
References (Read Further):
Hutmacher, F., & Kuhbandner, C. (2018). Long-term memory for haptically explored objects: fidelity, durability, incidental encoding, and cross-modal transfer. Psychological science, 29(12), 2031-2038. Link
Fairhurst, M. T., Travers, E., Hayward, V., & Deroy, O. (2018). Confidence is higher in touch than in vision in cases of perceptual ambiguity. Scientific reports, 8(1), 1-9. Link
Crucianelli, L., Metcalf, N. K., Fotopoulou, A. K., & Jenkinson, P. M. (2013). Bodily pleasure matters: velocity of touch modulates body ownership during the rubber hand illusion. Frontiers in psychology, 4, 703. Link
Goldstein, P., Weissman-Fogel, I., & Shamay-Tsoory, S. G. (2017). The role of touch in regulating inter-partner physiological coupling during empathy for pain. Scientific reports, 7(1), 3252. Link
Suomi, S. J., Van der Horst, F. C., & Van der Veer, R. (2008). Rigorous experiments on monkey love: An account of Harry F. Harlow’s role in the history of attachment theory. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 42(4), 354-369. Link