The science of hugging, and why we’re missing it so much during the pandemic | Susannah Walker

The science of hugging, and why we’re missing it so much during the pandemic | Susannah Walker

The Guardian

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To understand why so many are craving human touch we can look to our evolutionary history – and the secrets of our skin

  • Dr Susannah Walker is a reader in behavioural neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores University

“What I miss,” said one colleague last spring, during one of our weekly online team meetings, “are hugs, great big man-hugs, like I share with my dad and close male friends.” The sense of touch has long been a shared fascination for our research group of neuroscientists and experimental psychologists. During the pandemic, everyone else has started to talk about touch too – and the negative impact of its loss.

Twelve months later, hugs are still at the forefront of many people’s minds. One recent survey put hugs fourth on a list of 30 things people are most looking forward to after lockdown, just behind visiting friends and relatives (who they will no doubt be hugging) and eating out in restaurants. Refraining from touching or hugging our friends and family has proved really difficult over the last year, and the sight and sound of a loved one over Zoom rarely feels enough. To understand why we crave hugs and the touch of other humans, we need to look to our evolutionary and social history – and our skin.

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