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October 02, 2011

Importance of Touch

Communication in human relationships is incomplete without a touch, just like an eye contact or a smile. In fact, a touch can establish, repair or even ruin an existing relationship. Touch has very crucial importance in expressing our feelings about and for the other person i. e. from a formal to an intimate.

A touch breaks spatial, physical and territorial boundaries thus brings two different persons to form a close and an intimate relationship. The secret behind the same is more than skin-deep. Understanding the same would definitely help you in understanding the importance of touch.

Skin covers the largest surface area of our body and also protects vital organs located inside body's cavity. Skin is stretched tight, held on place and supported by muscles and bones beneath it. Also, it’s the largest sensory organ by itself. It senses temperature, humidity, pressure, stress and vibrations.

Secretion of oil and sweating keep the surface of outer skin wet, flexible and free of infections. It helps in regulating, maintaining and retaining the core temperature of our body at 37° Centigrade or 98.6 Fahrenheit, by following the timely instructions of hypothalamus.

Skin is the largest sensory organ, protective shield and interface.

Most importantly, skin can sense of pain and pleasure. Skin has a vast and intricate network of blood vessels and nerves. In skin areas are more sensitive than others due to density of nerves. Nerves and brain communicate between each other on constant basis whereas blood vessels supply blood, moisture, oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells.

Goose bumping, vasodialation (widening of blood vessels), sweating and shivering are skin's natural reactions for regulating, maintaining and retaining the core temperature of body which is unique to mammals. Also, emotions like anxiety, terror, excitement and thrill are conveyed through these reactions.

Apes have skin covering almost their entire bodies and exposing only their face, palms and soles of feet. Still, they spend hours in grooming, caressing and cleaning each other by running their fingers through hair of each other, indirectly touching skin, to strengthen social bonds among themselves.

We and apes separated and evolved from common ancestors but we don't have that much amount of hair cover over skin. Course of evolution lead us to shed hair from most of the parts of our bipedal body. Hairless, bare and exposed skin brought new challenges and opportunities equally.

Being highly sensitive to temperature, physical surroundings, surfaces climate and changes in it, we needed to cover most of the skin surface with clothes, covers and cladding. Also, we started living in artificially built shelters accompanied with family members for survival.

Coming into close physical contact with each other frequently with bare and unprotected skin was quite obvious. Like Apes, our ancestors too adapted to and evolved touching as a medium of communication more efficiently than any other non-Ape social creatures.

A touch can express and convey emotions, feelings, urges, needs, desires, impulses, motives and intentions depending upon the amount of pressure and strain being applied, the amount of time being spent in contacting, the part of one person's body contacting the part of other person's body, the area of skin's surface being contacted, the kind of movements on skin's surface that is being contacted, the psychological, intellectual or physical states of two persons engaged in a contact, physical space between them, their developmental stage and their body postures.

On the basis of the aforementioned factors, a touch can be curing, healing, comforting, consoling, cooperating, complementing, courting, soothing, supporting, surrendering, soliciting, protecting, defending, respecting, requesting, pleasuring, pleading, assuring, arousing, alluring, favoring, satisfying, appreciating, encouraging, suggesting, provoking, suppressing, warning, offending, insulting, rejecting, dominating, coercing, threatening, punishing, hurting, choking, smothering or harming.

Touching breaks personal boundaries and establish social connection between two individuals. When we receive caring, pampering and firm touch; we feel quite relaxed and cherished. We cannot forget the kind of soothing comfort and the sense of security we experience as a child while being hugged, cuddled, pampered or massaged by its mother.Self-touching also brings some amount of relaxation at some extent.

Touching is very important in child's social, emotional and mental development. Gentle touch, pamper or caress secretes happiness hormone Oxytocin inside the brain. It helps strengthening emotional bond between mother and child so among others. Oxytocin prohibits Autism in children. Research proves that lack of massage can lead to emotional and cognitive disorders in children.

Two persons who aren't interested in going beyond formality avoid touching each other. Even if they touch each other, it appears to be very brief, fleeting or as if it happened by mistake or accidentally. Frequency, time engaged in and amount of contacting increases during romance, love-making, child-rearing and therapy.

In public or private, receiving a touch without consent on some of the sensitive zones of one's body by a (complete) stranger or even a familiar individual belonging to an opposite gender is considered as a sexually offensive one and is mostly met with harsh verbal, physical or legal punishments.

Complete absence or lack of informal touching between two persons in a close relationship is sign of lack of affection, interest, trust or empathy. On the other hand, an accidental touch among two (complete) strangers can lead to hostility, anger, aggression or even fighting.

Haptics or Haptic communication is a branch of nonverbal communication that refers to the ways in which people and animals communicate and interact via the sense of touch.

Touching each other in public could be regulated, governed and dictated by institutional, ideological, social, gender, cultural, regional and legal norms.

Unlike a shake hand, casually touching each other is one of the most neglected or undervalued body language aspects in the modern human world.

Related Articles:
1) Child inside us 2) Why we hug? 3) Why we smile? 4) Making true friends 5) Importance of eyes in relationship 6) What is hand shake? 7) Secret of Metropolitan nervousness 8) The Power of Handshake 9) Subtle clues given by itching skin


  1. Would anybody mind if I posted a theory in relation to haptics nonverbal communication and how it relates to the Oscar Pistrius trial?

    I need some help in articulating a debate! :)

  2. What about brushing past someone?


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