Cross-cultural similarity in relationship-specific social touching

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Research units

  • Turku PET Centre
  • University of Turku
  • Hiroshima University
  • University of Oxford
  • Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
  • Nanyang Technological University
  • National Institutes of Natural Sciences - National Institute for Physiological Sciences


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.


Original languageEnglish
Article number20190467
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Issue number1901
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • social touch, cultural differences, emotion, bonding, human, touch

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