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Journal Article

Cross-cultural similarity in relationship-specific social touching


Turner,  Robert
Department Neurophysics, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Suvilehto, J. T., Nummenmaa, L., Harada, T., Dunbar, R. I. M., Hari, R., Turner, R., et al. (2019). Cross-cultural similarity in relationship-specific social touching. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286(1901): 20190467. doi:10.1098/rspb.2019.0467.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-916E-E
Many species use touching for reinforcing social structures, and particularly, non-human primates use social grooming for managing their social networks. However, it is still unclear how social touch contributes to the maintenance and reinforcement of human social networks. Human studies in Western cultures suggest that the body locations where touch is allowed are associated with the strength of the emotional bond between the person touched and the toucher. However, it is unknown to what extent this relationship is culturally universal and generalizes to non-Western cultures. Here, we compared relationship-specific, bodily touch allowance maps across one Western (N = 386, UK) and one East Asian (N = 255, Japan) country. In both cultures, the strength of the emotional bond was linearly associated with permissible touch area. However, Western participants experienced social touching as more pleasurable than Asian participants. These results indicate a similarity of emotional bonding via social touch between East Asian and Western cultures.