|Topic |Page No. | |Introduction |1 | |Categories of Haptic Communication |2 | |Meanings of Touch |5 | |Power and Touch |7 | |Culture and Touch |8 |
Haptic Communication is the means by which people and other animals communicate via touching. Touch is an extremely important sense for humans; as well as providing information about surfaces and textures it is a component of nonverbal communication in interpersonal relationships, and vital in conveying physical intimacy. It can be both sexual (such as kissing) and platonic (such as hugging or tickling).
Touch is the earliest sense to develop in the fetus, and the development of infants' haptic senses, and how that relates to the development of the other senses such as vision, has been the target of much research. Human babies have been observed to have enormous difficulty surviving if they do not possess a sense of touch, even if they retain sight and hearing. Babies who can perceive through touch, even without sight and hearing, fare much better. Touch can be thought a basic sense in that most life forms have a response to being touched, while only a subset have sight and hearing.
In chimpanzees the sense of touch is highly developed. As newborns they see and hear poorly but they grasp strongly to their mothers. Harry Harlow conducted a controversial study involving rhesus monkeys and observed that monkeys reared with a "terry cloth mother", a wire feeding apparatus wrapped in softer terry cloth which provided a level of tactile stimulation and comfort, were considerably more emotionally stable as adults than those with a mere wire mother.
Touching is treated differently from one country to another. Acceptable touch varies by cultural group. In the Thai culture, touching someone's head may be thought rude. Remland and Jones (1995) studied groups of people communicating and found that in England (8%), France (5%) and the Netherlands (4%) touching was rare compared to their Italian (14%) and Greek (12.5%) sample.
Striking, pushing, pulling, pinching, kicking, strangling and hand-to-hand fighting are forms of touch in the context of physical abuse. In a sentence like "I never touched him/her", or "Don't you dare to touch him/her" the term touch may be meant as euphemism for either physical abuse or sexual touching.
The word touch has many other metaphorical uses. One can be emotionally touched, referring to an action or object that evokes an emotional response. To say "I was touched by your letter" implies the reader felt a strong emotion when reading it. Usually does not include anger, disgust or other forms of emotional rejection unless used in a sarcastic manner.
Stoeltje (2003) wrote about how Americans are ‘losing touch’ with this important communication skill. During a study conduced by University of Miami School of Medicine, Touch Research Institutes, American children were said to be more aggressive than their French counterparts while playing at a playground. It was noted that French women touched their children more often than the American parents.
Categories of Haptic Communication
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