Affective touch communication in close adult relationships

IEEE World Haptics Conference

By: Sarah McIntyre, Athanasia Moungou, Rebecca Boehme, Peder M. Isager, Frances Lau, Ali Israr, Ellen A. Lumpkin, Freddy Abnousi, Håkan Olausson

Abstract

Inter-personal touch is a powerful aspect of social interaction that we expect to be particularly important for emotional communication. We studied the capacity of closely acquainted humans to signal the meaning of several word cues (e.g. gratitude, sadness) using touch sensation alone. Participants communicated all cues with above chance performance. We show that emotionally close people can accurately signal the meaning of different words through touch, and that performance is affected by the amount of contextual information available. Even with minimal context and feedback, both attention-getting and love were communicated surprisingly well. Neither the type of close relationship, nor self-reported comfort with touch significantly affected performance.