CBS Local — Can a hug cure the negative effects associated with being rejected on social media? Researchers say the power of touch can not only heal physical wounds but mend a person’s hurt feelings too.

Psychologists at University College London have released a study that describes how the body’s skin and hair plays a role in being buffered against social rejection. “Sometimes a touch can speak a thousand words,” researcher Katerina Fotopoulou said.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, followed 84 women as they played an online multi-player game called Cyberball. Researchers measured the responses of the women as they were randomly excluded from the ball-tossing game by other online competitors. The rejected players were then gently touched by the testers, which the scientists say human skin responds to in a comforting way and which generates pleasure.

“It just requires two bodies doing a very natural thing, socially appropriate and yet it seems to have a very specific effect,” Fotopoulou added. The London team added that the relationship to touch and social bonding was best illustrated by studies of mothers and their newborns.

The new study may emphasize the need for humans to stay physically connected to each other in the growing digital world. Recent studies by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have linked the increasing use of social media to more people feeling isolated in society.


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