A 'Gentle' Touch Can Take the Edge Off of Social Rejection
We all might have something of a healing touch, according to a small study from University College London that was published in Scientific Reports. Researchers looked at the impact of a considered "affectionate" human touch versus a quick "neutral" touch after a person experiences social rejection, and discovered a relationship between gentle touch and social bonding.
In the study, 84 healthy women played a computerized ball-tossing game with what they thought were other study participants; in fact, the other "players" were computer generated. When their partners in the game unexpectedly stopped throwing balls, participants felt varying degrees of social exclusion. Each participant was then blindfolded and experienced either a slow or fast "brush" on the skin of the forearm. While those touched slowly reported reduced feelings of social exclusion compared to those touched in a fast, "neutral" manner, researchers note that neither touch managed to do away entirely with the negative effects of feeling ostracized by their game partners.
"As our social world is becoming increasingly visual and digital, it is easy to forget the power of touch in human relations," said the study's lead author, Mariana von Mohr, in a statement. "Yet we've shown for the first time that mere slow, gentle stroking by a stranger can reduce feelings of social exclusion after social rejection."