It probably says more about me than I like, but I don't like to be touched, except of course by loved ones. I rarely initiate casual touching.

Reach to shake hands? Sure. Full hug, bro' hug, shoulder patting, back slapping good times? Um, no.

That may be why I didn't realize how powerful nonsexual touch can be. (I'm aware sexual touch can be powerful, thanks.) Touch can influence behavior, increase the chances of compliance, make the person doing the touching seem more attractive and friendly, and can even you help make a sale.

Here are a few examples of the effects of nonsexual touch from PsyBlog.  When touched, people are:

  • More likely to comply. 81% of participants agreed to sign a petition if touched, while only 55% agreed when not touched.
  • Even more likely to comply when touched twice. Researchers asked strangers to fill out a questionnaire; people who were touched twice were more likely to agree than those only touched once. (Shockingly, results were highest when females touched males.)
  • More likely to provide help. 90% of strangers who were touched lightly on the arm helped the experimenter pick up dropped items. If not touched, only 63% helped.
  • More likely to tip generously. Waitresses who touch customers are more likely to receive a bigger tip. (This from a 1984 study before the non gender-specific "server.")
  • Able to perceive unspoken emotions. Participants in a study tried to convey 12 different emotions by touching another blindfolded participant on the forearm. The rate of accuracy for perceiving emotions like fear, anger, gratitude, sympathy, love, and disgust ranged from 43% to 83%--without a word being spoken.
  • More likely to (maybe) buy a car. Researchers approached random men shopping for used cars. Half were touched for one second and the other half were not touched. Those who were touched later rated the "toucher" as more friendly, honest, and sincere. Would creating that perception help a salesperson make more sales? Probably so, since so people tend to buy from people they like.

Just make sure you use your new powers for good, not evil. For example, since touch helps convey sincerity, when you congratulate someone don't just smile and make eye contact. Shake hands. Or pat the other person lightly on the upper arm or shoulder.

Show your sincere appreciation or genuine interest not just with words, but with actions as well--taking care to ensure the person you touch doesn't mind, of course.

And start hugging your mother more often. She deserves it.