Research Finds A Woman’s Touch Increases Willingness to Take Risks

Throughout childhood, kids are given support and care through a variety of mediums, and touch can be one of the most important. Children are often touched by their mothers for reassurance, an action that has been shown to create a feeling of security in young people. Researchers at Columbia University and the University of Alberta decided to investigate whether this effect could also be seen later on in life, and devised a study meant to test the impact of a woman’s touch on the behavior of adults.

Participants in the study were asked to engage in various risk-taking behaviors such as gambling and investing money. During the participation period, subjects were greeted by either a male or a female, and all received either a handshake, a pat on the back, or no physical contact. The willingness of participants to take risks after this contact was recorded, and participants also supplied answers to questionnaires inquiring about their sense of security. The researchers found that those participants who were given physical contact by a woman were significantly more likely to take increased risks in the gambling and investing tasks than participants greeted by men or who did not receive any physical contact. The participants who were patted on the back by a woman also showed greater risk-taking behavior than those who received a handshake from a female. All participants who were touched by a woman also reported feeling more secure.

The results suggest that the reassurance and stability conveyed by a mother’s touch in childhood is able to carry throughout life and can be associated with female touch in general. The work may help psychotherapists and counselors develop more effective treatments for children as well as adults affected by insecurity, abuse, and other issues.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • duncan

    duncan

    May 14th, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    although a mother’s touch and care is great, what this study also means is that women can actually use themselves to convince and manipulate men into taking risks!

  • Amanda

    Amanda

    May 14th, 2010 at 8:22 PM

    It is natural,isn’t it?Men are always looking at being the ‘hero’ in front of women and when they get a contact such as a touch,they are overwhelmed and are often ready to take risks.

  • Kayla

    Kayla

    May 15th, 2010 at 5:42 AM

    Women lend a sense of security and comfort to many situations in a way that many men cannot. It is simply who we are and the way that others respond to that.

  • Tempest

    Tempest

    May 15th, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    duncan, I don’t see that as any different from the used car salesman who greets you warmly with a pat on the back or a handshake! Don’t accuse us women of manipulation when it’s very similar to a known sales technique used by BOTH genders.

    When you make a customer feel comfortable and safe in your presence, they will spend their money with you rather than the cold fish next door. You think the guy that sold you your car really was interested when he was asking all about you? Ha! Oldest trick in the book. Get them to like you and you can sell them anything.

    Which doesn’t mean this study has no value, by the way! It means salesmen and saleswomen have known about the power of touch for a very long time. I think the women did better because women are naturally warmer than men and generally, neither men nor women like casual physical contact coming from a man.

  • Pearl

    Pearl

    May 15th, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    I remember seeing a show about the orphanages in Romania and the awful conditions there. It stuck in my mind because of the eerie silence. The reporter explained that the babies didn’t even cry anymore to be lifted. The orphanage was so short staffed that the nurses didn’t have time to just comfort them, so these kids never got picked up except to feed and change them. When the babies were assessed, all of them were well below where they should have been developmentally for their age. It broke my heart to think of those little souls just giving up on getting a cuddle.

  • Sylvia

    Sylvia

    May 15th, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    Touch is such an underestimated sense. We all feel better for it whether we’re aware of the touch’s effect consciously or not. It’s almost as important to our well-being as food and water is to our physical health. That’s why you see seniors that are widowed who end up passing away not long after they lose their spouse. The physical connection is gone.

  • Jodie

    Jodie

    May 15th, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    I’m a touchy feely person! I always reach out and pat someone’s arm or something when I’m talking to them. It’s like a reflex for me. I don’t do it consciously. It’s another way of communicating for me I guess. I can see why this study turned out as it did.

  • Cassie V.

    Cassie V.

    May 15th, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    We all want and need connection. When we touch, it’s making that connection stronger between us. Words alone aren’t as effective. Think about how we console a person that’s grieving. We sit beside them as they’re talking and we pat their hand. I do anyway. That touch says I’m here and the person understands that unspoken message. Words aren’t even needed.

  • Yolanda

    Yolanda

    May 15th, 2010 at 8:15 PM

    I don’t like strangers touching me. Unless you’re a close friend or family, you better keep your hands off me! It feels like an invasion of my personal space. And by strangers I mean salespersons, acquaintances, neighbors and so on. Why do people think it’s okay to lay their hands on you when they hardly know you??

  • Jenn

    Jenn

    May 16th, 2010 at 3:14 AM

    I guess even a woman’s handshake can have the same effect, it does not have to be a shoulder rub or even a back pat.

  • themuse

    themuse

    May 16th, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    It’s like Jodie said, Yolanda. It’s an unconscious act for some and they don’t mean anything offensive by it. When you’re brought up in a family that is “touchy feely”, you don’t unlearn that in a hurry because it’s always been the way for you. I was horrified when I was rebuffed one day by a friend for doing the same thing Jodie does. It never crossed my mind that such a touch could be offensive. I’m more careful now. I’m more aware of what I’m doing with my hands when I’m chatting. It was a hard but good lesson for me.

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