Laura Tedesco, a freelance science journalist, interviewed me over the phone last month about a new piece of research just published on the so-called Social Softness Illusion. The article got published with the title Why Your Significant Other’s Skin Feels So Soft (But May Not Actually Be) on Yahoo Health. I had talked to Laura about the amazing work done by Tiffany Field on touch, and it looks like she got interviewed extensively too. A snippet of what I said and how it got woven into the article:
Hairy areas, unlike smooth spots, are populated with C-tactile nerves, which are thought to signal the emotional — and therefore pleasurable — aspect of touch. “The palm of your hand is very sensitive,” since it’s dense with mechanoreceptors, which respond to pressure and provide an immediate sensory experience, explains Mark Paterson, PhD, a visiting sociology lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh and author of The Senses of Touch. “That’s what I call cutaneous touch.” But then there’s a deeper type of touch, the kind that seems to activate feelings of pleasure and connection, stemming from the C-tactile fibers, he says.
The point about the SSI is that when you touch someone else’s skin, somehow it seems softer because of the strength of your affective bond with them. This is measurable in an experimental setup, as the authors of the original report from UCL found in their article for Current Biology, ‘Active Interpersonal Touch Gives Rise to the Social Softness Illusion‘ (available here).