Tactile communication and its role for emotions in humans and animals

Pleasant tactile experiences have been linked to a number of positive effects. For example, it has been suggested that they calm a touched individual and promote positive attitudes towards a toucher. We conducted a series of studies to determine whether these effects are stimulus-driven or whether they depend on touch attribution. To this end, we explored tactile effects in both humans and zebrafish. In humans, we found that touch produced by a tactile device elicited similar effects on heart rate and Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) as touch produced by a friend. Moreover, ERPs indicated that touch, regardless of attribution, increased sensitivity to emotional and socially relevant stimuli. In zebrafish, we observed that, like in humans, tactile stimulation has a calming effect. It reduced cortisol levels and fear behavior after exposure to a threat. Together, these data suggest that at least some of the positive effects of touch result from bottom-up mechanisms and have a distant evolutionary origin.



Prof. Dr. Annett Schirmer
Department of Psychology
National University of Singapore


Mittwoch, 19.Dezember 2012, 16 Uhr c.t.


Universität Ulm, N27, Raum 2.033 (Videoübertragung zur Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg G26.1-010)