Touch increases autonomic coupling between romantic partners

Jonas Chatel-Goldman 1 Marco Congedo 1 Christian Jutten 1 Jean-Luc Schwartz 2
1 GIPSA-VIBS - VIBS
GIPSA-DIS - Département Images et Signal
2 GIPSA-PCMD - PCMD
GIPSA-DPC - Département Parole et Cognition
Abstract : Interpersonal touch is of paramount importance in human social bonding and close relationships, allowing a unique channel for affect communication. So far the effect of touch on human physiology has been studied at an individual level. The present study aims at extending the study of affective touch from isolated individuals to truly interacting dyads. We have designed an ecological paradigm where romantic partners interact only via touch and we manipulate their empathic states. Simultaneously, we collected their autonomic activity (skin conductance, pulse, respiration). Fourteen couples participated to the experiment. We found that interpersonal touch increased coupling of electrodermal activity between the interacting partners, regardless the intensity and valence of the emotion felt. In addition, physical touch induced strong and reliable changes in physiological states within individuals. These results support an instrumental role of interpersonal touch for affective support in close relationships. Furthermore, they suggest that touch alone allows the emergence of a somatovisceral resonance between interacting individuals, which in turn is likely to form the prerequisites for emotional contagion and empathy.
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Jonas Chatel-Goldman, Marco Congedo, Christian Jutten, Jean-Luc Schwartz. Touch increases autonomic coupling between romantic partners. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, Frontiers, 2014, 8, pp.95. ⟨10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00095⟩. ⟨hal-01056115⟩

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