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Researchers Identify Where People Like and DON’T Like to be Touched

Update Date: Oct 30, 2015 02:03 PM EDT

Researchers have created a map of where people like and do not like to be touched. According to the researchers from Aalto University in Finland and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, people's areas of pleasure are greatly influenced by their emotional attachments to and relationship statuses with people who are touching them.

"We may perceive a touch in a particular place from a relative or friend as a comforting gesture, while the same touch from a stranger would be entirely unwelcome," the lead investigator of the study, professor Robin Dunbar, explained to the UK's Telegraph.

For this study, the researchers recruited 1,368 participants from Finland, France, Italy, Russia and the UK. Every one was shown a picture of the front and back parts of the human body and was asked to color the parts of the body that would be okay and not okay for people to touch. The five different types of people that the participants could come across were family, friends, partners, acquaintances and strangers, divided by gender.

The researchers found that in general, people from all five countries picked similar parts of the body that would be okay and not okay to touch. British people, however, were considered to be the stiffest when it came to touching whereas people from Finland were more opened to touch.

"The partner was allowed to touch basically anywhere over the body, closest acquaintances and relatives over the head and upper torso, whereas strangers were restricted to touch only the hands," the authors wrote. "Taboo zones, where touching was not allowed, included the genitals for extended family and males in family, acquaintances and strangers, as well as the buttocks for males in extended family, acquaintances and strangers."

In terms of gender, the researchers found that men typically do not like to be touched by strangers unless it is by a woman. Men also considered their legs, feet and backside as sensitive areas, even if it is their lovers doing the touching.

Women, on the other hand, are generally okay with most spots on their bodies, granted that they are being touched by their lovers, mothers, sisters and close female friends. But male acquaintances, in particular, should not wrap their arms around a woman's midsection.

The researchers also noted that the relationship as opposed to familiarity between two people determines what areas of the body can be touched.

"It is the relationship rather than familiarity that matters. A friend we haven't seen for some time will still be able to touch areas where an acquaintance we see every day would not," Dunbar said.

The study was published in the journal, PNAS.

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