International Patterns of Interpersonal Tactile Communication: A Field Study

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An awareness of how touch is employed in communicative interactions among peoples of different nations can be a critical requisite to effective inter-cultural communication. This study examined cross-sex, interpersonal, public touch to determine whether (1) the number of body areas touched varied between members of different societies; (2) the type of relationship between dyadic partners influenced tactile behavior; and (3) the amount of total body areas touched for each society correlated with latitude of origin. Variation in interpersonal touch as a function of nationality was confirmed. Results also confirmed that touch between dyads from an international sample was affected by type of relationship. Correspondence in the occurrence of tactile behavior among dyads from similar latitudes of origin was not confirmed. Findings call into question the designation of Northern European and U.S. cultures as non-contact.

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