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Your hugs show how you feel about people: Study


Published on: January 25, 2018 | Updated on: January 25, 2018

A new study has observed the importance of feelings in the manner you hug - the side from which you hug and which hand will be on top. (Photo: Pixabay)

Turns out, your feelings and the nature of interaction determine from which side you hug others.

A new study has observed the importance of feelings in the manner you hug - the side from which you hug and which hand will be on top during the embrace.

Carried by Ruhr-University Bochum, the study also demonstrated that the embrace can be based on the participant's handedness and footedness.

Hugs demonstrate love, joy, and comfort. They can occur in both positive and neutral contexts. Lead author Julian Packheiser explained, "We wanted to know if a hug-related behaviour is affected by the emotional context of the given situation".

She added that the team was curious if motor characteristics such as handedness determine the "lateralisation of the embrace".

The researchers studied more than 2,500 hugs to determine the nature of positive and affectionate hugs. In order to study neutral embraces, they analysed around 500 clips of actors who offered blindfolded hugs to strangers on the street.

After thorough research, they determined that most people show a preference for right-sided hugs. Also, it emerged that left-sided hugs can occur in positive as well as negative situations.

Packheiser explained, "This is because of the influence of the right hemisphere, which controls the left side of the body and processes both positive and negative emotions". She added, "When people hug, emotional and motor networks in the brain interact and cause a stronger drift to the left in emotional contexts".

Subsequently, researchers asked 120 participants to hug a mannequin to investigate the influence of handedness and footedness. The participants were made to listen to various positive, negative, and neutral short stories on headphones.

Packheiser inferred that right-handed people tend to hug the other person from the right side, much more often than left-handed people.

Embraces between two men came out as an oddity, according to the research. The researchers observed a strong left-hand drift, even in neutral situations.

Sebastian Ocklenburg from Bio-psychology department at the University of Bochum, Germany opined, "Our interpretation is that many men consider embraces between men to be something negative; therefore, they tend to perceive hugs as negative even in a neutral situation, such as saying hello".

He deduced that the right hemisphere is activated due to negative emotions and affects the motion to the left which affects the way people hug.

The study is published in the journal Psychological Research.