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Investigating the effects of touch in social interactions

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Pavlidou,  A
Project group: Social & Spatial Cognition, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Mohler,  BJ
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Pavlidou, A., Mohler, B., Bues, M., & Ackerley, R. (2018). Investigating the effects of touch in social interactions. Poster presented at Conference of the Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society (ACNS 2018), Melbourne, Australia.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-42D8-F
Abstract
Touch is interpersonal, as it is shared between beings who have some mutual relation to one another, whether an intimate long-term relationship or a superficial one, and can be used to convey thoughts and feelings between conspecifics. We asked, participants to evaluate their own and someone else’s preference of “which body part they prefer to touch”, during observed human social touch. Participants were shown pictures of an avatar, face-on, which had an upper body to either side of it, comprised of the neck, arm and palm. Avatars expressed preferences to one of the two bodies (left or right) and one of the three body parts (neck, arm and palm), indicated through combining positive/negative facial expressions, positive/negative gestures, and head orientation. Participants were asked to infer their own (1st-person mentalising) and the avatar’s (3rd-person mentalising) preference. Furthermore, driven by the notion that humans are highly susceptible to the happenings in their social environment, we introduced a third condition where the avatar showed no preference towards either body/body part (neutral condition), and asked participants to again evaluate their own preference. This allowed us to examine how social touch interactions may influence our subjective preferences. Overall, participants were faster in the neutral condition, than in the 1st-person mentalising and 3rd-person mentalising conditions. Although, participants’ preference was centred on the palm during the neutral condition, this was extended to include the arm and neck during 1st-person mentalising condition, suggesting that the avatar’s interaction with a specific body part influenced participants’ preference. In addition, participants were highly accurate in inferring the avatar’s ‘preference’, and showed that they were inclined to respond faster to positive facial expressions and gestures than negative, implying that they may share the touch recipient’s experience.