There Is Magic in a Touch


In my post A Special Gift for Dad This Father’s Day I promised to do an article on how we are affected by a touch. I said I would title it The Magic of Touch, but I changed my mind. Same subject, different title. In Reach Out and Touch Someone we will first to look at the hard science behind a touch and then see what psychologists have to say. I mean I know what a wonderful feeling it gives me when a good friend touches my arm or gives me a hug. A light touch from a stranger is also welcome. However, I’m considered kinda’ weird at times so I wanted to find out if it was just me or if there really is magic in a touch.

If you remember, ‘Reach Out and Touch Someone’ was a slogan used by AT&T starting way back in 1981 (I think that was the beginning anyway). Not sure about this, but I have to wonder if that slogan idea came from “Reach Out and Touch (somebody’s hand) the title to a song sung by Diana Ross in 1970. Anyway, the Chorus goes as follows:

Reach out and touch
Somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place
If you can

Okay, we know that AT&T was referring to a verbal ‘touch,’ but the company understood the importance of the word ‘touch’. In fact, AT&T felt so strongly about this that they spent hundreds of thousands of corporate dollars promoting themselves with the “Reach out and touch someone’ slogan. They correctly anticipated that we would then reach out and touch our wallets for them.

So, what is it about this touch business that makes it so important to us humans? In a study which appeared in the journal Psychological Science in 2006 it turns out that touch has an affect on our brains. In the study Dr. James A. Coan, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and colleagues, subjected 16 married women to a mild electric shock to their ankles while an MRI took a look at what was going on in their brains. The higher anxiety levels of the women were greatly reduced when their husbands held their hands. Their anxiety levels also decreased, though not as much, when a stranger held their hands. The real significance of this study is that a touch affects the emotional center of our brains

In another less scientific but no less significant study, it was discovered that if the servers in a restaurant touched a customer for one to one and a half seconds, the customer rated the restaurant higher, demonstrated a liking for the server and tipped higher than customers that were not touched. There were other similar studies indicating how very good it can be to reach out and touch someone. And in some instances also profitable. You can read this paper for yourself at

So there you have it. I’m not all that weird after all. I like the touch of another human and you probably do too. However, the studies from the tipping research did warn that if the touch was too long, it could have just the opposite effect. That makes sense too when you think about it. There’s a big difference between a light touch and a sense someone is invading your space or are making an attempt at intimacy.

I personally like to touch and I like being touched because it creates a wonderful sense of connectedness with another person. Once you become a friend (5 or 10 minutes), you’ll get a great big hug every time I see you. I may be weird, but I believe hugs help make the world a more loving place.

Now go have fun and relax.

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