Saturday, December 10, 2016

Men vs. Women: how different are we?

In your travels, you may have noticed that men and women are just a little bit different – in appearance, in ability, in preferences.  And one of the more visible, and persistent, distinctions is in color preference – pink for women, blue for men.

But is it true? Do women and young girls truly prefer pink, do men and young boys truly prefer blue?  And, if so, is it something that we learn (pink, as it happens, continues to be the most popular iPhone color for females) or simply innate?

Writes American neuroscientist Lisa Eliot, author of “Pink Brain, Blue Brain”:

 “In the past decade, we've heard a lot about the innate differences between males and females. So we've come to accept that boys can't focus in a classroom and girls are obsessed with relationships: ‘That's just the way they're built’." 

But Eliot insists that we make way too much of innate gender differences – most prominent of which is the pink-blue myth. Eliot’s website explains: “. . . infant brains are so malleable that small differences at birth become amplified over time, as parents, teachers, peers — and the culture at large — unwittingly reinforce gender stereotypes. Children themselves exacerbate the differences by playing to their modest strengths. They constantly exercise those ‘ball-throwing’ or ‘doll-cuddling’ circuits, rarely straying from their comfort zones.”

By all appearances, society (ever so slowly) is heading toward gender equality – more men raising families, more women performing surgery.  There remain, of course, noticeable and disturbing gaps (e.g., salaries in the workplace), but by and large the worldwide movement is afoot (though at times we pause to realize that women’s suffrage is less than 100 years old!).

Which leads us back to the pink-blue myth. Study after study continues to dispel the notion, yet it persists. 

It wasn’t always this way. Looking back a century, Polly Curtis, writing for theguardian.com reports: "In 1914, the Sunday Sentinel told American mothers: 'If you like the colour note on the little one's garments, use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention'." Fast forward a decade when a chart in Time magazine stated that “boys should be dressed in pink and girls in blue,” according to an article at kidssocialnorm.com.  The article continued: “Pink was for boys because it was a powerful color. Blue was designated to girls because it was considered delicate and dainty. Pink was also associated with the ‘fiery’ male temperament, while blue was associated with the Virgin Mary and the purity and goodness of a little girl.”

Gender differences, historians report, began to fade in the 1960s when the women’s liberation movement took hold (an article by Jeanne Maglaty for smithsonianmag.com noted that, for two years in the 1970s, the Sears Roebuck catalog pictured no pink toddler clothing). And the move toward gender neutrality continued until the mid-1980s, when pink vs. blue began to re-emerge (the re-emergence is believed tied to the start of parental testing).

So what are we to make of pink vs. blue?  Does it serve our children well? 

Says author and historian Jo Paoletti: “The loss of neutral clothing is something that people should think about more. And there is a growing demand for neutral clothing for babies and toddlers now, too.” And this isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon, as noted by Curtis in her piece for theguardian.com: “. . . I'm always struck when I visit my daughter's cousins in Sweden that children's clothing in particular is much less gendered than in England. Babies tend to wear more uni-sex bright patterns than pale pink and blues.”

Other points to consider:

·        Under the age of two, children exhibit no color preference, according to Curtis, citing work by Professor Melissa Hines at Cambridge University;
·        Children become conscious of their gender around 3-4 years old, and do not realize it’s permanent until age 6 or 7, according to Maglaty, citing research by child development experts; and
·        A famous 1978 study demonstrated how differently adults treated the same baby depending on whether they were dressed in pink vs. blue.

So if you see me walking by you today in a pink fedora, don’t be alarmed. It’s a power color.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Looking for inspiration? Or something to make you laugh?

These memorable quotes may do both. Enjoy.

On the Past
“Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”

On Intuition
 “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”

On Friendship
“Be with those who bring out the best in you, not the stress in you.”

On Relationships/Marriage
“A relationship is more than finding the right person, it's also about being the right person.”

“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.”

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” – Jacob M. Braude

On Change 
“Life has got a habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it like you find it. You got to change with it. If a day goes by that don't change some of your old notions for new ones, that is just about like trying to milk a dead cow.” – Woody Guthrie

On Mistakes
“Your past mistakes are meant to guide you, not define you.”

Life’s 2 Great Rules
“There are two great rules of life; the one general and the other particular. The first is that everyone can, in the end, get what he wants, if he only tries. That is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is, more or less, an exception to the rule.” – Samuel Butler

Life’s 2 Basic Rules
“Two basic rules of life: 1. Change is Inevitable 2. Everyone Resists Change. Remember this: When you are through changing . . . you're through.”

On Success
“Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.” – Samuel Johnson

“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s unstoppable determination.” – Tommy Lasorda

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” – Brendan Francis

On Failure
“You don't drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” – Edwin Louis Cole

On Contribution
“Look for a way to lift someone up. If that’s all you do, that’s enough.” – Elizabeth Lesser

“You never know who needs you. Good energy is contagious.”

On Kindness
“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” – Frederick W. Faber

On Hope
“Once you choose hope, anything is possible.” – Christopher Reeve

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

How much of your happiness is tied to money?

“Blessed with riches and possibilities far beyond anything imagined by ancestors who tilled the unpredictable soil of medieval Europe, modern populations have nonetheless shown a remarkable capacity to feel that neither who they are nor what they have is quite enough.” – Alain de Botton, philosopher and author of Status Anxiety

Apparently, everything is relative.

Whether we’re talking money or sex appeal, the research is crystalline – we measure our success in life against our “reference group,” that is, our neighbors, our work colleagues, our relatives and closest friends. And while these comparisons serve us well at times (e.g., motivating us to do our best), they by and large create a healthy dose of unhappiness.

Said psychologist Carlin Flora, in a piece written for Psychology Today: “At the end of the day, we're concerned with our immediate reference group—one made up of about 150 people.” In her piece, Flora quotes economist Robert H. Frank, of Cornell:

 “When you see Bill Gates' mansion, you don't actually aspire to have one like it. It's who is local, who is near you physically and who is most like you – your family members, coworkers and old high school classmates – with whom you compare yourself. . . . If someone in your reference group has more, you get a little anxious."

Our sense of envy (a product of “social comparison theory”) often leads to Status Anxiety, and its pervasive reach dominates much of our life experience.  Its historical roots seem clear enough (we were, after all, focused exclusively on survival not too long ago). Yet now, in the modern era, these roots persist and studies continue to affirm what we know instinctively: it’s more important for us to outperform our “reference group” than to have more (money, material goods, sex appeal) in absolute terms.

Said author and philosopher Alain de Botton: “Wealth is not an absolute. It is relative to desire.”

Two studies, cited by Flora, support this notion of relativity. Wrote Flora:

“In the 1980s, Frank dismantled a premise central to economic theory: People will always choose the greatest absolute amount of wealth. Landmark research shows that our preferences are actually quite relative. We'd rather make $50,000 while living in a neighborhood where everyone else makes $40,000 than earn $100,000 among those who are raking in $150,000.”

In a similar vein, Flora added: “Women are more envious of other women's good looks, say evolutionary psychologists, because appearance is an important marker of youth and fertility. In a beauty-contest version of the economist Frank's salary preferences breakdown, women in Buss and Hill's survey reported they would rather be a ‘5’ among ‘4s’ than an ‘8’ among ‘10s’.”

Here’s a glimpse at the pros and cons of Status Anxiety:

THE PROS

Said Psychologist Camille Johnson, in a piece for Psychology Today: “Envy has its benefits . . . if channeled in the right way: Research in educational contexts by Hart Blanton of the University of Connecticut and in business contexts by John Schaubroek at Michigan State University has demonstrated that people who look upward, despite the potential pain, are more successful. As another adage goes, ‘the pain is temporary, the pride is forever’."

Quoting Yale professor Peter Salovey, Flora wrote: 

“Just as with anxiety, says Peter Salovey, professor of psychology at Yale, a mild dose of envy can energize us and concentrate our efforts: ‘If I really wish I had a car like my neighbor's, then that will motivate me to put my nose to the grindstone and earn more money in order to be able to buy that car’. ‘Envy helps us know what's really important to us,’ he says. If we consistently feel envy toward classmates who earn perfect grades or climbers who summit mighty peaks, these must be the domains on which we stake our reputations.” 

THE CONS

Psychologist Daniel Crosby highlighted the darker side, explaining:

“Studies show that the most noticeable way in which money impacts happiness is negatively! We see that the very rich enjoy a slight bump in happiness given their comparative superiority, but the ‘have nots’ are made absolutely miserable as they look up at their better resourced counterparts. Given that the increase in happiness is slight and that the rich make up a small fraction of the total population, in general, the tendency to view money in comparative terms is the source of a great deal of woe.”

Crosby argues that the American tendency to “flaunt it,” may not be a simple matter of human nature.  His argument?  “Switzerland is just one example of a very wealthy country with a philosophy diametrically opposed to showy wealth. As opposed to the American mantra of, ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it,’ the Swiss take an ‘if you’ve got it, hide it’ approach so as not to provoke envy in others.”

Here’s where Flora agrees, saying: “Envy is ultimately isolating.” Warns veteran journalist and author Chris Hedges: “Envy pushes us away from what's most precious, and that is love. Those who are lonely, who lack close personal relationships, are most susceptible to status anxiety.”

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Author's Note: If you’d like to explore how your spending decisions affect your happiness, check out the website “Beyond The Purchase” (http://www.beyondth epurchase.org/), which analyzes how your values and personality “interact with spending decisions” to impact your happiness.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Do real men get flu shots?

It’s not too late.

No, it’s not too late to go and get a flu shot.  If you know someone – a relative or friend, perhaps – who has not yet been vaccinated, please encourage them to make the call today.  And here’s why:   

It’s not about them.  It’s not just about protecting themselves. It’s about protecting their family, their friends, their work colleagues, babies, infants, children and the elderly (not to mention the checkout crew at your local supermarket).  It’s called “herd immunity*” and it means that if everyone works together, we end up protecting one another.

Said the good folks at massmed.org: “If you get the flu, you put people around you at high risk for serious illness. [By minimizing your risk], you can help ensure that they stay healthy this winter.”

Will certain people be harder to convince? 

No doubt.  In a highly unscientific sampling (drawn from early morning queries at the local gym), it appears that certain members of the male species may be more reluctant than others to take action.  And national data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) support this notion – indeed, nationally, females are more likely than males to get the shot (45% vs. 38%).    

So, what’s the holdup?  Without question, it’s the widespread myths that continue to persist (e.g., that the vaccine itself can actually cause the flu). And while logic may not carry the day, we’ll take a shot nonetheless. So here then are a few key facts about the vaccine that you and your reluctant friend should know.

1.      Don’t like the needle?  Not a problem, flu shots are available in several different forms. There’s the intradermal flu shot (much smaller needle, injected into the skin instead of the muscle), and there’s the nasal spray vaccine, approved for most people ages 2 to 49.

2.      Can the flu vaccine actually give you the flu?  No way. The CDC explains: “The flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness; however, it can cause mild side effects that may be mistaken for flu. For example, people vaccinated with the flu shot may feel achy and may have a sore arm where the shot was given. People vaccinated with the nasal spray flu vaccine may have a stuffy nose and sore throat. These side effects are NOT the flu. If experienced at all, these effects are usually mild and last only 1-2 days.”

3.      Full proof?  No, it’s not, but vaccines, increasingly, are providing more coverage. Explained Rachael Rettner in an article for livescience.com: “Flu shots protect against three or four strains of flu virus. Trivalent flu vaccines protect against two influenza A strains, H1N1 and H3N2, and one influenza B strain. Quadrivalent flu vaccines — offered for the first time in the 2013-2014 flu season — protect against the same strains as the trivalent vaccine, as well as an extra influenza B virus.”

4.   Should I wait until I turn 65?  Probably not.  It’s true that the elderly are more susceptible, but the CDC reports that 10-20% of flu-related deaths occur in adults ages 18-64.

So, please, ask around. Find out who in your friend circle has yet to be vaccinated, and urge them to take action.

And let them know they can add it to their resume under “Community Service.”


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What is Herd Immunity? (also known as “Community Immunity")

“When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants . . . or immunocompromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained. This is known as ‘community immunity’.” – vaccines.gov

Saturday, October 1, 2016

How compassionate are your kids?

How challenging is it to raise children who are compassionate, kind, and empathetic? Apparently, it’s getting harder. 

Sara Konrath, a University of Michigan psychologist, compared data from 1979-2009 to analyze if, indeed, teenagers have become more, or less, compassionate over the last 30 years. Her findings were dramatic, and discouraging. 

Explained Konrath, whose meta-analysis covered 72 studies and 14,000 college students: “College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts 20 or 30 years ago. . . .” Compared to college students of the late 1970s, said Konrath, college students today are less likely to agree with statements such as: “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective" and "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me." Along these lines, today’s college students are more likely to agree with the statement: “I will never be satisfied until I get all that I deserve."

It’s a disturbing trend, but psychologists and international groups insist there is much we can do to bring about change. Below are a few unique (and some traditional) steps. But first, a word about compassion, and its importance. 

·        What is compassion?  According to Seeds of Compassion, a non-profit: “Compassion is an understanding of the emotional state of another. Not to be confused with empathy, compassion is often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another or to show special kindness to those who suffer. (To read more on the subject, consider picking up “Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential -- and Endangered,” by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz.)

·        Benefits? Adds Seeds of Compassion: “Scientific studies that suggest there are physical benefits to practicing compassion — people who practice it produce 100 percent more DHEA, which is a hormone that counteracts the aging process, and 23 percent less cortisol — the ‘stress hormone’.” 

·        How early can children learn to be empathetic?  Said Elizabeth Foy Larsen, in an article at parents.com: “One study found that kids as young as 18 months could master a key component of empathy: the ability to tune in to people's emotions. By age 4, they move beyond making physical caring gestures and start to think about others' feelings in relation to their own. Many of these responses happen naturally, but you can make a more conscious effort to promote empathy-boosting experiences for your children.”

·        Muscle memory? Explained Marilyn Price-Mitchell, in an article published by the non-profit Roots of Action: “Developing compassion in elementary and middle school-aged children is akin to developing muscle strength. The more you use your muscles, the stronger they get. Children learn compassion through many experiences, including caring for the family pet.”

·        How important is a child’s social-emotional development (SED)? According to Seeds of Compassion: “Social-emotional development [which is linked directly to compassion] is the foundation for success in school and in life. . . . It is a better predictor of adult success than intelligence quotient scores (IQ).”


What Can You Do?

Above all, psychologists insist, we must provide opportunities for our young ones to practice compassion. Aside from that, here’s a mix of some unique, and traditional, steps worth taking: 

·        Point out heroes. Said Jane Meredith Adams, writing for parenting.com: “The siren of a fire truck, not to mention a newspaper photograph of a bomb attack, can make a 4-year-old worry. Shield him from disturbing images as much as possible, but when he hears or sees something frightening, focus the conversation on the firefighters, rescue workers, doctors, or volunteers who are there to help us.”

·        Help children understand and cope with anger. In her article for Roots of Action, Price Mitchell explained: "Anger is one of the greatest hindrances to compassion because it can overwhelm children’s minds and spirit. Yet there are times when anger yields energy and determination. The Dalai Lama, in his article Compassion and the Individual, suggests we investigate the value of our anger. We can help children by asking how their anger will help solve a problem or make their lives happier. We can help them see both the positive and negative sides of anger, and how holding onto anger leads to unreliable and destructive outcomes."

·        Teach children to self-regulate.  Added Price-Mitchell: “Children should understand that regulating their anger is not a sign of weakness. Instead, a compassionate attitude is an internal strength. Praise children when they regulate themselves, making sure they understand the power of their calmness and patience.”

·        Don’t trash talk. In her piece for parenting.com, Adams suggested: “Don't trash talk. Kids, as we know, are always listening. How we talk on a daily basis about our own siblings, parents, and relatives tells them a lot. If children hear us saying something really negative about Grandma, they learn that it's okay to talk that way, says Suzanne Coyle, Ph.D., a mom and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. So keep meanness in check: ‘Show them you have a spirit of kindness and generosity’.”

·        Volunteer. Perla Ni, founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits, said that “researchers have found volunteering is associated with increases in adolescents’ self-esteem and self-acceptance, moral development, and belief in one’s personal responsibility to help. Volunteering often brings a new dimension to the world through children’s eyes; it helps them grasp that not everyone has the same privileges they do and makes them more empathetic.”



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Interested in building compassion? 
If you’re interested in taking action, or simply learning more, consider contacting any of these top-flight organizations, each of which promotes compassion and empathy:

  •           Seeds of Compassion
  •       Kids for Peace
  •       Roots of Empathy and
  •           GenerationOn (the youth division of Points of Light Institute).


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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Do you suffer from nostesia?

Chances are, either you or a family member suffers from it.  It’s not a rare condition. In fact, by some estimates, one in five is afflicted with it.  Might you have it? 

Nostesia derives from two familiar words: nostalgia and amnesia. So it’s easy to understand that those afflicted with the disease long for the past, but have clearly forgotten that the “good old days” weren’t all that good.  Nostesiacs, it is said, have fallen victim to the “Golden Age Fallacy.”

Authors, bloggers, playwrights and pundits weigh in.   

Woody Allen, in his wildly creative film Midnight in Paris, offers insights when his lead character shares: “Nostalgia is denial; denial of the painful present. . . . And the name for this fallacy is called golden-age thinking - the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in. It’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

Author Jamie Vollmer, who coined the word nostesia, informs us that “written expressions of . . .  disapproval regarding ‘these kids today’ and ‘these schools today’ go back as far as Plato.”

And how about the phrase “age of uncertainty?” How long has that been around? Says author Dan Gardner, as quoted in thefourthrevolution.org: “We call our time the ‘age of uncertainty‘, believing that there is something uniquely uncertain about this moment. But the phrase ‘age of uncertainty,’ which has appeared in the New York Times 5,720 times, made its debut in 1924!”

To those who maintain that the world “was simpler back then,” blogger Erik Rasmussen delivers his verdict: “Remember back when you were a child, and the world wasn’t so complicated and messed up? That was a simpler time, wasn’t it? Wrong! It was a simpler time for you because you were a child, free to play and almost entirely free from responsibility. We live in the most peaceful time in all of human history.”

Further, Rasmussen rejects the theory that Smartphones are making us more lonely, more isolated, less social. He explains: “As with absolutely everything, you can do Smartphone social networking too much, but reasonable people set reasonable boundaries. Yes, I have been in a room with two other people, and every one of us was using their Smartphone. But I’ve also been in a room with two other people in which all three of us were reading books. Does that mean that books are destroying our relationships? Down with reading! Why aren’t we talking to each other?!”

Added Jon Krutulis of trythought.com: “Even from the perspective of a few hundred years ago, we live like kings. We enjoy luxuries and benefits that were simply unknown in times we credit with being ‘the good ‘ol days’.” Added Krutulis: “It is easy to look at the social problems that plague us and claim that our morals are in decline; however, look at the things we have conquered: disease, slavery, serfdom, inequality, etc. We have alleviated suffering, pain, and injustice that made life in these Golden Times ‘nasty, brutish, and short’.”

A host of books affirm the notion that nostesia is an illness without merit. Author Norman Finkelstein, in The Way Things Never Were, points to the 1950s and 1960s when the fear of communism and nuclear attack reached into our schools.  Author David Fryxell, in Good ‘Ole Days My Ass, shares over 600 “terrifying truths” that reveal that the Good Ole Days, for most people, were a “filthy, dangerous, exhausting slog simply to survive.” And Joseph Campbell, in Getting It Wrong, dismantles prominent media-driven myths about times gone by.  

Is there a cure for nostesia?  Vollmer insists there is: “Nostesia can be cured, but it must be aggressively treated.” So what’s the cure? Powerful doses of good news, along with frequent reminders of the struggles endured by our predecessors. 


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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Which of our senses has no art form?

We treat our senses to all sorts of pleasures – music for our ears, art for our eyes, perfume and gastronomy for our nose and tongue. But what about touch?  It may be the only sense without an art form.

“Touch is the first system to come online, and the foundations of human relationships are all touch,” explains Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner, in a New Yorker piece by Adam Gopnik. “Skin to skin, parent to child, touch is the social language of our social life.”

At our core, human beings are social animals and research has confirmed that we have an innate ability to communicate emotions via touch alone. In a fascinating series of experiments, researchers demonstrated that human beings were capable of communicating eight distinct emotions – anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness – through touch alone, with accuracy rates as high as 78 percent. "I was surprised," said DePauw University psychologist Mathew Hertenstein, in a Psychology Today article written by Rich Chillot. “I thought the accuracy would be at chance level," about 25 percent. (In the experiment, two people were separated by a curtain – one was given an emotion, then told to communicate it to the other via touch alone.)

Whether it’s a handshake, a high-five or a deep and warm embrace, touch has its own special language.

It’s unique in so many respects:
  •         “. . . During intense grief or fear, but also in ecstatic moments of joy or love . . . only the language of touch can fully express what we feel,” noted Chillot.
  •          Said Gopnik: “Perhaps the reason that touch has no art form is that its supremacy makes it hard to escape. We can shut our eyes and cover our ears, but it’s our hands that do it when we do. We can’t shut off our skins.”
  •          Ryan Genz, co-designer of the Hug Shirt told Gopnik: “We can transmit voice, we can transmit images – but we [can’t] transmit touch.” Commenting on social media trends, evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, in an interview with Bloomberg.com, noted: “In the end, we rely heavily on touch and we still haven't figured out how to do virtual touch. Maybe once we can do that we will have cracked a big nut.”


What have we learned about touch? 

The scientific inquiry of touch is still in its infancy. Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist David Linden, author of “Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind,” told Gopnik: “Over the past 50 years, there have been probably a hundred papers about vision for every paper about touch in the scientific literature.” Linden added: “People go blind often. But almost no one is touch-blind – the fact that you have to say ‘touch-blind’ is a hint of the problem. Being touch-blind isn’t compatible with life. There are no national foundations for the hard-of-touch.”

Nonetheless, new as it is, enormous strides have been made on quantifying the benefits of touch. University of Miami School of Medicine's Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute, has linked touch, in the form of massage, to a slew of benefits, including better sleep, reduced irritability, and increased sociability among infants – as well as improved growth of preemies.

According to the Institute, touch has also: lessened pain, lowered blood pressure, stimulate the hippocampus, lowered heart rates, reduced stress hormones, increased levels of oxytocin, improved pulmonary function, increased growth in infants, lowered blood glucose and improved immune function.  In one study, according to an article by Maria Konnikova for the New Yorker, Fields found that “even short bursts of touch – as little as fifteen minutes in the evening, in one of her studies – not only enhance growth and weight gain in children but also led to emotional, physical, and cognitive improvements in adults.”

What else have we learned?

  •         Newborns that are touched gain weight faster and have superior mental and motor skill development – an advantage they retain for months. (Source: Livestrong.com article by Mary Bauer);
  •         There is some evidence that the level of aggression and violence among children is related to lack of touching (Source: Livestrong.com article by Mary Bauer);
  •         People who are touched briefly on the arm or shoulder are more likely to comply with requests such as volunteering for charity activities. (Source: in-mind.org article authored by Mandy Tjew A Sin and Sander Koole);
  •         Touch predicted performance across all the NBA teams (Source: team led by psychologist Michael Kraus);
  •         In a series of studies, diners who were touched by the waitress (e.g., a touch on the shoulder) left between 18% and 36% more tips than diners who were not touched (Source: professors April Crusco and Christopher Wetzel)
  •         At a home for the elderly, though who were touched while being encouraged to eat consumed more calories and protein up to five days after the touch (Source: Eaton, Mitchell-Bonair & Friedman).


Teens, atheists, senior citizens, doctors and teachers

  •         By the time children reach their teen years, they receive only half as much touching as they did in the early part of their lives. Adults touch each other even less. (Source: Livestrong.com article by Mary Bauer)
  •         Warm climates tend to produce cultures that are more liberal about touching than colder regions (Source: Psychology Today article by Chillot);
  •         Atheists and agnostics touch more than religious types, "probably because religions often teach that some kinds of touch are inappropriate or sinful,” according to professor Peter Anderson of San Diego University, as quoted by Chillot);
  •         Senior citizens receive the least touching of any age group (Source: Livestrong.com article by Mary Bauer); and
  •         More touch-oriented doctors, teachers, and managers get higher ratings (Source: Psychology Today article by Chillot).


Would more touch benefit us all?  No doubt, say the experts. But in a touch-phobic society such as ours it’s challenging to create a culture that promotes touch (people in Spain, for instance, were found to be far better at communicating via touch than their American counterparts). In 1998, Fields called for “a shift in the social-political attitude toward touch,” noting that, “leaving your humanity behind every time you leave home isn't very appealing.”

The future of touch?
Imagine an online shopper “feeling” the linen of a summer shirt while sitting at their computer. Imagine receiving a long-distance Swedish massage. Or imagine a surgeon in Los Angeles performing surgery in Botswana, and actually feeling the flesh and organs of the patient.

It’s all possible.

So hug a friend today. It’ll feel good.

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