Reach out and Touch

Posted on Jul 24, 2016 in blog, featured

Reach out and Touch

When I was in college choir, our director used to have us hold hands with each other when we were putting the final touches on our performances. While this may seem like a fluffy, touchy-feely team building action, we were initially surprised to find that it had some very concrete results.

When we held hands and were physically connected as a group, we fell perfectly in tune with each other (all of our music was performed a capella, or without accompaniment; so there was no instrument to tie us to the correct key). Interestingly enough, we would sometimes end up in a different key than we had started the piece…however no matter whether we were flat or sharp, we remained perfectly together as a group.

Touch communicates comfort, trust, cooperation. Beyond facial expression or verbal communication, touch has been shown to be the most sophisticated and precise  communicator of emotion.

While it’s easy to communicate the value of touch in terms of wellness, touch also has value in terms of sport.  In a study of basketball players done at UC Berkely, researchers found that touch and tactile communication was highly correlated with successful teams, cooperative play, and individual and group performance.

Touch is central to many realms of social life, from parent-child attachments to cooperation amongst non-kin. The present research adds to this literature suggesting that touch may promote group functioning during competition by enhancing cooperation and performance.

In addition to soothing and communicating emotions, the present research provides some of the first empirical evidence showing that touch enhances group performance through building cooperation. High fives and fist bumps, seemingly small dramatic demonstrations during group interactions, have a lot to say about the cooperative workings of a team, and whether that team wins or loses.

We tend not to give a lot of touch to the value of touch in relation to our other senses. We can close our eyes and imagine what it would be like to be deprived of sight. We can plug our ears or be underwater and imagine being without our hearing. It’s more difficult to imagine being deprived of touch. Consider, however, that people can be easily blind or deaf from birth and live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. Being deprived of loving touch, especially from birth to two, results in crippling psychological effects, cognitive delays, attachment disorder….life becomes unalterably changed. It seems worthwhile to give some thought to this powerful determinant of our human experience.


To your continued good health and wellness,




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