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A hug is duct tape for the soul.

 
Last week, Kathleen Parker wrote a column The Washington Post headlined "What's behind the human touch?" If you've read this blog for a while, you already know that Jack is a big believer in the healing qualities of touch. While Parker's article doesn't delve into touch's healing aspects, it does ponder some other "weighty" issues:
Sometimes it takes a scientific study to reveal the obvious. The latest discovery -- that touch influences how we perceive things -- is something like the warning on a steaming cup of coffee.

Just as everyone knows that spilling hot liquid on one's lap will produce a burning sensation, everyone knows that tactile sensations convey information about the object or person being touched. The question is: How do we interpret this information? And what actions might we take in response?

Joshua M. Ackerman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sought to answer those questions through a series of psychological experiments. He concluded that an object's texture, hardness and weight influence our judgments and decisions.

Again, the obvious: Weight conveys importance ("weighty issues") and hardness is associated with rigidity. At last we understand the church pew.

Parker then muses on the tactile experience of reading and considers why reading on a computer is less satisfying.
Holding a book compares to nothing short of a baby's contact with his favorite blankie. Consistent with Ackerman's findings, a hardback is superior to a paperback precisely because it is more solid, weightier and, therefore, more permanent, more important, better.

But might touching words on a printed page vs. reading them online also be relevant to one's comprehension and judgment? Are words consigned to tangible and tactually rewarding paper more likely to register in our minds than those that float on hard tablets subject to the blinkering life span of a battery or extinguishable by a bolt of lightning?

Admit it: You print out the stories you really want to study. Think, too, how differently we consider a handwritten letter vs. an e-mail. Even an e-mail printed out seems more important -- more concrete -- than what we view on the screen. It is, alas, more human.

Read the entire article.


Florida's Touch Research Institute:
was the first center in the world devoted solely to the study of touch and its application in science and medicine. The TRI distinguished team of researchers, representing Duke, Harvard, Maryland, and other universities, strive to better define touch as it promotes health and contributes to the treatment of disease. Research efforts that began in 1982 and continue today have shown that touch therapy has numerous beneficial effects on health and well-being.

The Touch Research Institute is located at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Mami, Miller School of Medicine, Miami Florida.

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