A pat on the back, a comforting hug, an unnoticed brush in a crowded room: these are small everyday instances of touch that are usually taken for granted. Small touches like these play a huge role in our mental and physical health and impacts the way we perceive and interact the world around us. Although touch has been largely ignored in past psychological research, it has become a popular topic in recent years. Many studies on touch and its psychological implications have been performed with interesting and surprising results.
Touch plays a huge role in the life of every person. Physically, the sense of touch “protects our body by signalling [sic] potential danger and requiring us to make a prompt response.”1 While other senses play a role in protecting the body, touch is the last defense between us and the outside world. In addition to protecting us from potential dangers, touch connects us to the world around us. It allows us to build relationships and interact with other people and things. The first relationship we have is formed by the loving touch of our mother as she holds us to her chest after birth. That small moment of touch is enough to calm the baby and start the relationship building process in the brain of the child. A recent study found that a parent’s touch “establishes infant’s feelings of security, elicits positive emotions (e.g., smiling), and modulates children’s emotions and distress behaviors (e.g., crying; Beider & Moyer, 2007; Field, 2010; Hertenstein, Verkamp, et al., 2006).”2 The touch of a parent allows for a child to feel safe and happy and to handle stress in a positive and healthy way. The opposite can be seen in hospitals and clinics where nurses are not encouraged to interact with a new baby physically; there is a jump in the mortality rate from babies who received adequate touch in their first weeks and those who had little to none. Many psychologists are suggesting that touch should be regarded as a necessity for survival, not just a desire.
Physical touch is a necessary part of human life. Though the psychology of touch is not heavily researched, scientists have been coming to the conclusion that touch is necessary for survival as they have learned more about it. It plays a major role in childhood development and has lasting effects on mental and physical health. Touch is much more than just a romantic want and is not without a deeper purpose. God made us with the ability to interact physically. The way touch impacts our emotional, physical, and spiritual development points to the importance of touch in our lives.
- Gallace, Alberto. “Living with Touch.” The Psychologist, vol. 25, Dec. 2012, pp. 896–899., thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-25/edition-12/living-touch.
- Rancourt, Kate M., et al. “Children’s Immediate Postoperative Distress and Mothers’ and Fathers’ Touch Behaviors.” Journal of Pediatric Psychology, vol. 40, no. 10, 5 Aug. 2015, pp. 1115–1123., doi:10.1093/jpepsy/jsv069.