Touch Societies

Sidney Jourard, a University of Florida psychologist, visited caf├ęs in different parts of the world and recorded the number of times two people who were sharing a coffee touched each other.

In London, the tally was 0; in Gainesville, Florida, 2; in Paris 110; and in San Juan, Puerto Rico, more than 180.

Most sociologists would agree that societies like those in the Mediterranean countries (Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, for example) are contact societies, whereas the more northern societies in countries such as Holland, Great Britain, and the United States are not.

The physician P. N. K. Heylings wrote an article in the British Medical Journal entitled, "The No Touching Epidemic - an English Disease." The symptoms he describes include feelings of loneliness and isolation, doubts about other people's loyalties, feelings of insecurity, emotional inhibitions, unusual reactions both to being inadvertently touched and to touching others, inability to communicate with people standing nearby, and antagonism to massages as a form of therapy.

Other observational studies to determine the effects of touch on public behavior have been conducted in New England. In one study, shoppers were touched by a salesman offering pizza samples. The customers who were touched were more influenced by the salesperson, they liked that person more, and more of them felt the salesperson liked them more.

[Tiffany Field]
Touch, p.22-4

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