The Science of Touch and How It Improves Relationships

June 14, 2017 • Rehack Team


A lot goes into making humanity a unique species in the animal kingdom — from its ability to ask and answer deep questions about the universe to crafting tools to accomplish great things.

In this technological age, people stand more connected than ever. Humans represent social creatures, requiring interaction, cultural enrichment and laughter. Today, many people remain unaware of the science of touch.

Humans need hugs. The act and science of touch deepens and enriches a person’s relationships, reinforcing a sense of self and comfort, as they emotionally express themselves.

People now type “hugs” in the comments of a friend’s social media post or use emoticons to give and receive affection.

While one may prefer a handshake over a hug, touch is intrinsic to the multi-layered communication of the human species and its development. The science of touch correlates with many important factors in society, from decreasing violence to increasing overall wellbeing by improving one’s immune system.

Decreasing Violence

The amount of positive and gentle touch you receive as a child decreases your tendency towards physical and emotional violence.

It was James W. Prescott, American developmental psychologist, who first suggested the roots of violence in society derived in relation to the lack of a mother-child bond, and that the “touch variable” of the child receiving or not receiving affection in youth had a 70 percent accuracy in predicting a tendency toward violence.

Research in child development has illustrated that the lack of a physical bond and healthy attachment between a child and an adult may result in emotional disturbances that remain as lifelong occurrences.

Economic Boost

Physical touch has surprisingly linked with economic gains. Touch soothes, meaning trust and safety for individuals.

A simple warm touch has been proven to soothe cardiovascular stress, activating the vagus nerve in the body, which is associated with a compassionate response. The orbitofrontal cortex is also activated in the brain, associating touch with reward.

Imagine players of a sports team giving pats on the back, physically engaging with each other in a positive manner. More games come out on top due to the trust and collaborative relationship strengthened through the touch variable.

Improved Wellbeing

There are many types and gradations of touch that add to fulfillment in multiple areas of a human’s life.

A mom’s hug gives comfort and support when afraid. An intimate touch from a lover holds unique qualities and lets people know how special they are. A hand on a shoulder from a friend comforts when sad or angry.

Subtle signals reinforce boundaries and definitions in relationships. Oxytocin releases with a simple warm touch, helping build trust and communication between people and improving one’s well-being. Oxytocin reduces stress levels and boosts physical and psychological health.

Stronger Immune System

Research out of the University of North Carolina has shown women who received more hugs from their partners had lower blood pressure and heart rates.

Hugs strengthen the immune system from the soft pressure of another person pressing in on the sternum which stimulates the thymus gland to regulate white blood cells.

Want a stronger immune system? Hug more people.

The science of touch works in the moments you feel attraction, or your shoulders relax from a single touch. Your skin’s love language might readily resemble touch. Touch has an intrinsic place in human development and history.

In this technological age, touch feels scarce. Remember to put down the smartphone occasionally to hug a friend or give a colleague a handshake on a well-deserved promotion. A little love goes a long way.