UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner thinks we Americans are definitely touch-deprived. In lecture 8 of his excellent course Human Happiness (feed), Keltner presents evidence that when we touch each other, we feel less stressed, more altruistic and well — happier. He’s talking here about casual everyday touches, everything from a bear hug to a gentle tap on the arm.
Not only that, but Keltner describes experiments that suggest that humans have a cross-cultural “language of touch.” In a lab setting, people showed the ability to discern feelings like sympathy and gratitude from a simple touch on the arm. The people making these judgments were screened from the person who was touching their arm, and their only contact was the physical touch.
And what about touch deprivation? Keltner quotes an observational study of people conversing over coffee in different countries. On the average, Londoners did not touch each other at all. In some other countries average touches were: Florida, 2; Paris, 110; Puerto Rico, 180.
If you’re convinced, you could make the world a happier place today. Just reach out and touch someone.