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body language: the importance of touch

August 20, 2010

Haptics is the science of touch in human interaction.

Touch is the earliest sense to develop and probably the most important one.

Harry Harlow conducted a series of studies in the 1950s in which he raised rhesus monkeys isolated from others. These touch-deprived monkeys later developed severe emotional and behavior problems. They were overly aggressive, tended to rock and wrap their arms around themselves, and didn’t interact with others.

Back then, the results of his research were in contrast to the pedagogic advice of that time, which told parents to limit body contact to avoid spoiling their children.

In 1989, doctors found that the neglected children in Romanian orphanages had some of the same emotional, mental, and social problems. They had reached only half of their expected height and they clutched and rocked themselves just as Harlow’s monkeys did.

Since touch is so important, I’ll explore the topic some more in future posts.

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3 comments

  1. Scary to think of being deprived of the touch of love. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Jae,

    Again a very thoughtful post. The image makes me ache, and I’m finding myself very sad. I remember the original study, and I’ve seen the footage of the Romanian orphanages. There was an orphanage and other care facilities on Staten Island which unfortunately had identical results in children, due to the terrible abuse and neglect inflicted upon these children.

    So I’m going to go hug my dog Chief, and comfort myself. I’ll pick a time when he’s not snoozing, so I don’t bother him too much. 🙂


    • Actually, I’ll blog about the effects that hugging Chief will have on you and on him later 😉



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