Touch Communicates Distinct Emotions

This article discusses touch, emotion, and communication. Past studies have focused solely on the emotional signaling of the face and voice. Through these three studies the authors investigate how different forms of touch communicate certain emotions. Our sense of touch is one of the most significant senses and is highly developed at birth.

It is theorized in two ways; the first one being that touch communicates the Hedonic Tone Theory, relating to pleasure and claims that dimensions of feelings are based on a scale from positive to negative and touch intensifies or weakens the emotion. A positive emotion would express compassion and a negative emotion expresses hurt or anguish. The study is guided by the three motivations: modality (mode or manner), descriptions of physical signals used to communicate emotion, and discovering that humans have many emotions that are communicated through nonverbal behavior in. Hypothesis

Academic anxiety?
Get original paper in 3 hours and nail the task
Get your paper price

124 experts online

The purpose of this study was to determine if touch, (pulling, lifting, squeezing, stroking, etc. ,) could communicate specific emotions such as anger, love, gratitude, sadness, disgust, etc. The study was to describe the forms of touch used, prove that emotions communicated by touch could be identified through observation, and that we can communicate more than just the emotions of facial and vocal communication. The authors expect to prove that positive emotions, altruism and cooperation, will be expressed by touch. Altruism and cooperation are said to be expressed through nonverbal displays of emotion such as gratitude, love, and sympathy.

An altruistic person is unselfish and willing to help others without rewards and someone who shows cooperation works together toward a common purpose. This study will show that a person who displays compassion or gratitude by using touch is a person who attracts people to interact because they are altruistic and cooperative.

Methodology Study 1 asked if the participants could convey three classes of emotion using contact:

  • six emotions (anger, fear, happiness, sadness, disgust, and surprise) expressed by the face and voice interpreted in many cultures,
  • Three prosocial emotions related to cooperation and altruism
  • Three self-focused emotions (pride, embarrassment, envy).

The Forced-Choice Methodology (judgment of stimuli: pleasant + aroused, pleasant + unaroused, unpleasant + aroused, and unpleasant +unaroused has a 25% chance guess rate) was used giving the participants the emotions and responses to choose from on a sheet of paper. The first study included 212 participants age 18-40 that were grouped into pairs of four different gender groupings; female-female, female-male, male-male, and male-female.

The terms encoder and decoder were used to identify each person in the pair at a table that was divided by a black curtain. Twelve emotions were randomly written on a sheet of paper in which the encoder had to communicate emotion on the decoder’s arm from the elbow down. Neither could see or hear one another, nor was gender identified. The decoder was given a sheet of paper consisting of thirteen response options; anger, fear, disgust…. etc. No contact, light intensity, moderate intensity, strong intensity assigned a code for each second the encoder touched the decoder which was calculated.

The second study mirrored the first with the exception of culture, Spain being added, limited emotions, not videotaped and the emotions and responses were alphabetized. Study 3 added observers, using video clips from study 1, 114 participants and were 93% Caucasian. Of the twelve emotions six clips of each were shown, six accurate and six inaccurate responses that identified what emotion the encoder was expressing by touch. Results and Conclusions In order to test if gender was an influence the analysis of variance, ANOVA, was used.

The gender of encoder and decoder were the independent variables and the accuracy score was the dependent variable. In psychology the independent variable is the one that is being controlled and will affect the dependent variable. The dependent variable is what is being measured and responds to the independent variable. Anger, fear and disgust were decoded at above chance levels (above 25%). The self-focused emotion (embarrassment, pride, envy) was not decoded by touch. Love, gratitude, and sympathy were all decoded supporting the claim that altruism and cooperation are expressed by these nonverbal displays of touch.

Study 2 included Spain, a country that has different norms and often displays and values touch. The outcome reflected similar results to the first study. Study 3 which used observation to decode emotion of others being touched stated that the signals that were decoded correctly from the video of study 1 were anger, fear, happiness, disgust, love, and sympathy at above chance levels. Sympathy and disgust that were not identified correctly in study 1 were identified at above chance levels (above 25%) in study 3. Also gratitude was chosen at above chance levels instead of happiness which the encoder was aiming to express.

Topics Related to General Psychology The article relates to the topic of sensation and perception in General Psychology. Our sense of touch lets our body detect energy from our environment by feeling pressure on the skin and is interpreted by our nervous system (King, 2011, p. 126). Our nervous system is made up of receptors that collect and transmit data, traveling to the spinal cord and then to the brain. The sense of touch has its own sensory receptor cell that is different than any of the other senses. The information is sent to certain parts of the brain where it is organized and processed.

The term absolute threshold means the amount of energy it takes for a person to detect stimuli. The difference threshold allows the body to detect the differences in each stimulus to discriminate one touch from another (King, 2011, p. 101-102). As in the study the decoder had to detect and distinguish different degrees of touch to their arm arousing the nervous system to react with a certain emotion. Follow-up Study: Love Gratitude Sympathy. In this study we will use three groups each consisting of two families of five for a total of thirty people.

The groups will be labeled A, B, and C. If only allowed to use a specific signal to express love, gratitude and sympathy how will each family adapt and to what degree of the three emotions will be felt on a scale of 1 to 10. (1=least amount of feeling, 10=strongest amount of feeling) Which signal will have the most success in expressing love, gratitude, and sympathy? Group A will communicate love, gratitude, and sympathy by using facial expressions, Group B will use touch, and lastly Group C will communicate love, gratitude and sympathy with words.

The families in each group will only be allowed to communicate with the signal they are given for one week and will be monitored by videotape. At the end of the week the groups will switch allowing for the experience each signal of communication of love, gratitude and sympathy. Each family will view the videotapes to decode the signals used by the other families and compare similarities and differences.

Works Cited

  1. King, L. A. (2011). The Science of Psychology An Appreciative View Secon Edition . Boston: McGraw-Hill. Chapter 4, 98-128.

This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

Need a custom essay sample written specially to meet your requirements?

Choose skilled expert on your subject and get original paper with free plagiarism report

Order custom paper Without paying upfront

Touch Communicates Distinct Emotions. (2016, Sep 27). Retrieved from