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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 publication

DOI

10.1098/rspb.2019.0467

Type

Journal article

Journal

Proc Biol Sci

Publication Date

24/04/2019

Volume

286

Keywords

bonding, cultural differences, emotion, social touch