Receiving a mediated touch from your partner vs. a male stranger: How visual feedback of touch and its sender influence touch experience

Sima Ipakchian Askari (Corresponding author), V.J. Harjunen, Michiel Spapé, Antal Haans, Niklas Ravaja, Wijnand A. IJsselsteijn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Social touch is essential to human development and communication. Mediated social touch is suggested as a solution for circumstances where distance prevents skin-to-skin contact. However, past research aimed at demonstrating efficacy of mediated touch in reducing stress and promoting helping have produced mixed findings. These inconsistent findings could possibly be due to insufficient control of contextual factors combined with unnatural interaction scenarios. For example, touch occurs less frequently among strangers and is often accompanied with nonverbal visual cues. We investigated how visual presentation of touch, and interpersonal relationship to the sender influence perception, affective experiences, and autonomic responses the touch evoke. Fifty couples of mixed gender were recruited. A mediated touch was repeatedly applied by either the male partner or male confederate to female participants. The latter witnessed through a webcam as the sender caressed a rubber hand or touchpad to send the touch. Following our hypotheses, touch sent by one's partner was perceived softer and more comforting than stranger touch. The partner's touch also resulted in weaker skin conductance responses, particularly when sent by touching a touchpad. In sum, how a mediated touch is experienced depends both on who is touching, and on how the touch is visually represented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1044-1055
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Affective Computing
Issue number2
Early online date31 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • Haptic display
  • Influencing human emotional state
  • Marine vehicles
  • Multimodal systems
  • Physiology
  • Receivers
  • Rubber
  • Skin
  • Stress
  • Tactile display
  • Visualization
  • tactile display


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