LONDON (CBS NEWS) — Experts have touted the health benefits of hugging for years, saying hugs can lower stress levels and boost self-confidence. Now, researchers in London have studied the science behind the most satisfying squeeze.
To better reveal the sensations behind touch psychologists at Goldsmiths University of London blindfolded 48 women willing to be hugged by a stranger. They tested a one-second hug, a five-second hug, and a ten-second hug.
“The very short hugs, the one-second hugs, they were perceived as less pleasant,” said psychologist Anna Lena Duren with Goldsmiths, University of London.
The 10-second snuggle was rated most pleasurable. “Which was surprising to us because, we thought, 10 seconds is so long surely at some point people might find it less pleasant,” said Duren.
In a second experiment, researchers watched nearly 200 people hug in social settings. Psychologists found criss-cross hugs are more common than the neck-waist arm position, and gender also made a difference. “Men are more likely to use the kind of criss-cross arms with other men than women are among each other,” said Duren.
The style of embrace didn’t seem to affect how enjoyable it was, but the longer the hug the better. That surprised some Brits. “I could only imagine 10 seconds if it’s like some sort of drunken hug,” said London resident Dan Hamdani.
Next, researchers plan to study how watching others hug affects people’s brains and emotions.