Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Infants are sensitive to pleasant touch

Date:
April 2, 2014
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Infants show unique physiological and behavioral responses to pleasant touch, which may help to cement the bonds between child and parent and promote early social and physiological development, according to research. According to the researchers, the findings "support the notion that pleasant touch plays a vital role in human social interactions by demonstrating that the sensitivity to pleasant touch emerges early in human development."

Infants show unique physiological and behavioral responses to pleasant touch, which may help to cement the bonds between child and parent and promote early social and physiological development, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Related Articles


Previous studies with adults have shown that when the skin is stroked, a specific type of touch receptor is activated in response to a particular stroking velocity, leading to the sensation of "pleasant" touch. Cognitive neuroscientist Merle Fairhurst of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues hypothesized that this type of response might emerge as early as infancy.

For the study, Fairhurst and colleagues had infants sit in their parents' laps while the experimenter stroked the back of the infant's arm with a paintbrush. The experimenter varied the rate of the brushstrokes among three defined velocities (0.3, 3, or 30 cm per second). The experimenters gauged the infants' responses through physiological and behavioral measures.

The results showed that the infants' heart rate slowed in response to the brushstrokes but only when the strokes were of medium velocity; in other words, the touch of the medium-velocity brush helped to decrease their physiological arousal.

The infants also showed more engagement with the paintbrush during the medium-velocity brushstrokes, as measured by how long and how often they looked at the brush while they were being stroked.

Interestingly, infants' slower heart rate during medium-velocity brushstrokes was uniquely correlated with the primary caregivers' own self-reported sensitivity to touch. That is, the more sensitive the caregiver was to touch, the more the infant's heart rate slowed in response to medium-velocity touch.

The researchers note that this link between caregiver and infant could be supported by both "nurture" and "nature" explanations:

"One possibility is that infants' sensitivity to pleasant touch stems from direct or vicarious experience of differing levels of social touch as a function of their caregiver's sensitivity to social touch," explains Fairhurst. "Another possibility is that social touch is genetically heritable and therefore correlated between caregivers and infants."

According to the researchers, the findings "support the notion that pleasant touch plays a vital role in human social interactions by demonstrating that the sensitivity to pleasant touch emerges early in human development."

They argue that the ability to perceive and sensitively response to pleasant touch is likely vital early in life because of the fundamental role that touch plays in affiliation, bonding, and synchrony between infants and caregivers.

Fairhurst and colleagues plan on extending these findings by exploring the brain basis of pleasant touch using neuroimaging tools and by investigating the psychological effects that pleasant touch has on infants' social functioning.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. T. Fairhurst, L. Loken, T. Grossmann. Physiological and Behavioral Responses Reveal 9-Month-Old Infants' Sensitivity to Pleasant Touch. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614527114

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Infants are sensitive to pleasant touch." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402105744.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2014, April 2). Infants are sensitive to pleasant touch. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 3, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402105744.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Infants are sensitive to pleasant touch." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402105744.htm (accessed March 3, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Researchers gave lidocaine to 112 patients, and about 88 percent of the subjects said they needed less migraine-relief medicine the next day. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

Newsy (Mar. 1, 2015) Margaret Duffy of the University of Missouri talks about her study on the social network and the envy and depression that Facebook use can cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods to Battle Stress

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

Buzz60 (Feb. 26, 2015) If you&apos;re dealing with anxiety, there are a few foods that can help. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the best foods to tame stress. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Newsy (Feb. 26, 2015) People who sleep more than eight hours per night are 45 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to a University of Cambridge study. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins