When it comes to hugs: the longer the better

BioTechniques News
Aisha Al-Janabi

Researchers investigate the factors that make a hug pleasurable. 

Humans are hugging creatures. We hug to greet each other, to celebrate and console, and to express intimacy. But what makes a good hug?

A team from the University of London (UK), led by Michael J.Banissy, have conducted two experiments to find out what makes a good hug. In their experiments, described in Acta Psychologica, the researchers aimed to measure the pleasure levels derived from different types and durations of hugs. 

In the first experiment, conducted in a laboratory setting, forty-eight female volunteers were blindfolded, hugged by two female experimenters and asked to rate their pleasure level.  

Hugs lasted for 1, 5 or 10 seconds, using a criss-cross style, where the arms of each person are crossed over each other’s shoulder and waist, or a neck-waist style, where one person’s arms are wrapped around their partner’s waist and the other person’s are wrapped around their partner’s shoulders. 

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Although arm-crossing style had little effect on how much the volunteers enjoyed the hugs, the researchers discovered that volunteers found longer hugs more pleasurable than shorter hugs. 5 or 10 second hugs were preferred to 1 second hugs. 

In the second experiment, the researchers wanted to find out what arm-crossing style people preferred to use when asked to hug spontaneously. They walked around the university campus, and asked pairs they found socializing to hug each other, and rate their pleasure level. In total, 103 hugs were observed. 

As with the first experiment, they found that longer hugs were more enjoyable. Arm-crossing style had little effect on how pleasurable a hug was, except when two males were hugging each other. Most males hugging males preferred a criss-cross hugging style. 

The researchers anticipate that these studies will provide a foundation for future research on affective touch, especially hugs, which are common but understudied.  

So, when it comes to hugging your loved ones this holiday season, linger that little bit longer.  

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