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26 Feb 2020

Are we touch hungry? A new global study investigates
BY Megan Whitby

According to researchers, the study will help shed more light on the unknown subject of how touch affects our minds and bodies in social situations, an area which is not well-explored

According to researchers, the study will help shed more light on the unknown subject of how touch affects our minds and bodies in social situations, an area which is not well-explored

A global touch study has been launched to “explore our attitudes towards the physical experience of touch” and investigate whether contemporary society experiences ‘touch hunger’.

The Touch Test is an online questionnaire developed by researchers at Goldsmiths University of London and launched by the BBC and Wellcome Collection.

It seeks answers about the similarities and differences in our experiences of touch, with the aim of increasing our understanding of its role in health and wellbeing.

The questionnaire will explore issues such as how our attitudes towards touch vary by age, nationality and gender and whether contemporary society allows us to get enough touch or leaves us wanting more.

The power of touch is a pillar of the wellness industry, that’s been proven to provide numerous benefits for health and wellbeing such as lowering stress levels and boosting the immune system, according to studies by The Touch Research Institute in Miami.

The Wellcome Collection has commissioned Michael Banissy Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths University of London to conduct The Touch Test.

“Touch is an incredibly powerful force in our daily lives, it’s not often until we stop to think about it that we realise how much of a role it actually plays,” said Banissy. “It plays a role in so many human behaviours ranging from the aggressive to the most intimate and it can play a huge role in our development, our social interactions, perceptions of ourselves and our health and wellbeing.”

According to researchers, the study will help shed more light on the unknown subject of how touch affects our minds and bodies in social situations, an area which is not well-explored.

“We know a lot about how we process touch but we tend to know a lot less about the use of touch socially and how we use it in a communicative way,” said Banissy.

The study was launched on BBC Radio 4’s All In The Mind programme – which explores the limits and potential of the human mind.

Presenter Claudia Hammond previously worked on BBC studies into rest and loneliness.

Hammond said: “Over 70,000 people contributed to our previous studies into rest and loneliness, and I’m hoping for a similarly positive response to this unique exploration of attitudes towards touch.

“Like rest and loneliness, touch is something that affects us all – and is more complex than you might think. The Touch Test gives people the opportunity to contribute to large-scale, pioneering research into the topic. I’m really looking forward to analysing the results of the study in a series of programmes on Radio 4 later this year.”

With the rise of the #MeToo movement, touch has become a hot topic in the media and a sensitive concept in society more widely, as expectations and standards have changed around physical contact and consent.

The study’s results will be announced at a live event at Wellcome Collection in London in the autumn and will be explored in an upcoming BBC series, The Anatomy of Touch, later this year.




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