Now you know.
Have you ever had that horribly awkward experience of making someone uncomfortable by touching them in the wrong way? It happens to the best of us — an inappropriate handshake, an unwarranted hand on the shoulder, or that dramatic pull-back when you graze someone’s leg.
We’ve probably all had at least one experience where we were the ones doing the touching or being touched. Thanks to one study conducted by PNAS, a nifty little chart has been created based on the survey results regarding touch.
The blue-outlined black areas highlight the taboo zones, where a person with that relationship is not allowed to touch. Blue and red labels signify male and female subjects, respectively. (Chart: PNAS)
The study researched where people were comfortable and uncomfortable being touched and by whom. Not only is the chart divided up by relationship of people to one another, but it also takes gender into account. Researchers know that touch is an important part of social bonding and wanted to dig a bit deeper to uncover the boundaries that exist and where people want to be touched.
Participants in the study came from a variety of cultures including Italy, Russia, France, Finland and the UK. Each participant was shown a human silhouette, both front and back, and then given a word explaining how this “person” was related to them (family, friend, stranger, and so on). They were then instructed to color in parts of their body that they felt comfortable with those individuals touching.
The study found that the areas people felt comfortable being touched were dependent on the emotional relationship between the toucher and person being touched.
Family members and close acquaintances were allowed to touch more body area than people who were less familiar. The special patterns of touch were directly correlated to the strength of the relationship between the two people.
As we all know, men and women feel a whole lot different about being touched and this chart helps to navigate those differences.
While women felt comfortable with strange men touching their hands, they reported their torsos, midsections and upper legs to be completely taboo. However, men felt comfortable with strange women touching their arms and shoulders and didn’t actually have any taboo zones (not surprising — typical men).
So, before you consider touching someone you don't know, always make sure you have their consent beforehand. It will save you both from awkward situations.