The Right Touch

By Jamie Rowen | September 1, 2004 | 2 comments

One of the first lessons children learn in school is to keep their hands to themselves. The reason seems clear: no one wants to be touched inappropriately by a classmate—or a teacher.

But a growing body of research points to constructive methods of touching as well. Much of this research has focused on the positive effects of touch in close relationships—its role in forming secure, soothing attachments between an infant and a parent, for instance. Now a study has found that certain kinds of touch between strangers can provide a useful and effective means of communicating positive reinforcement.

As he reports in the August issue of Social Psychology of Education, French psycholo¬gist Nicolas Guéguen instructed the professor of a 120-person statistics class to give the same verbal encouragement to any student who volunteered to solve a problem at the front of his classroom. But to a randomly selected group of students within the class, the professor also gave a slight tap on the upper arm when speaking to them. Guéguen compared the volunteer rate of those who were touched to those who were not, and found that students who were touched were significantly more likely to volunteer again. In fact, roughly 28 percent of those who were touched volunteered again, compared with about nine percent of those who were not.

Drawing on previous research in the field, Guéguen speculates that a touch to the arm may have infused participants with a feeling of self-confidence that motivated their positive behavior. “It is possible that touching, coming from a high-status person, is perceived as a sign of distinction,” he writes. “The effect would have been to overcome the inhibition of correcting the exercise in front of his/her classmates.”

Of course, as Guéguen notes, “touching tends to have become taboo in the American school system,” and valid fears about abu¬sive forms of touching rightfully limit contact within the classroom. But these findings suggest that as we define and redefine the limits for this contact, we should not neglect the sense of comfort and confidence that might come through the right kinds of touch between strangers.

Tracker Pixel for Entry
 
 
 
About The Author

Jamie Rowen is a Greater Good Science Center Undergraduate Fellow.

  

Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

Donate
 
  
 

This seems to be so right on the money to me. I do a lot of touching with my young daughters, stroking their head or back, when I go anywhere with them.  I think that it connects us and they seem to like it, I know that I do as well.

Marie | 11:51 am, October 7, 2010 | Link

 

We have in each of our treatment protocols,
facilitated by the parent, a session of"gentle
touch"and smelling a nice aroma every hour, amongst
other non intrusive exercises.UCI has proven in a pilot
study, followed now by a large scale study, that the
recovery from autism is observed in 69% of the
children exposed to that treatment. We also have
massage daily, music, and various vestibular,
memory, visual exercises.

claudie Gordon-Pomares | 8:25 am, August 25, 2011 | Link

 
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Most...

  
  

Greater Good Events

The Science of Happiness

Starts September 9, 2014 - Register Now!


The Science of Happiness

An unprecedented free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life. Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE credit hours available.


» ALL EVENTS
 
 

Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!

» TAKE A QUIZ
 

Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.

Watch
 

Greater Good Resources

 
 
» MORE STUDIES
 
 
» MORE ORGS
 

Book of the Week

No Future Without Forgiveness By Desmond Tutu Tutu urges forgiveness as a way to peace, even in the wake of atrocities.

» READ MORE
 
Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.

Dr. Christine Carter's blog on the science of raising happy kids.

» READ MORE
 

Sponsors

The Quality of Life Foundation logo Special thanks to

The Quality of Life Foundation for its support of the Greater Good Science Center

 
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement