Interpersonal Communication

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Significance of Touch in Culture

Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.- Carl G. Jung

In my 19 years of life(okay,fine,specifically,close to 19 years of life) I have yet to come across anyone who has never been touched(in saying this I mean physically).First,let us go to the basics. Exactly what is touch?

Tactile communication refers to what we communicate through the sense of touch -- through touching, or not touching each other in various ways. Touch may be the most primal or basic form of communication.For example,we all know babies are unable to talk in the wee early stages of life(duh!).
Anyone ever seen are a talking baby,say,who is two months old?Therefore we use touch as a means of communication to an infant. When a babby cries,normally no one would lauch in a heart rending speech on the 'Virtues of requesting politely for your milk'.A person would just pick the baby up and start cooing while patting him/her on the back.
That is the relatively normal thing to do where most cultures are concern. A creditable resource reports that one major difference in childbearing between the west and east is the degree to which an infant is held by his nanny or mother.In the US, most infants spend most of their time in their cribs,playpen or stroller while most asian babies are carried most of the time(eg.A mother with a sarong carrying her baby,you get the picture).
Tactile messages tend to convey aspects of emotional and attitudinal states. Touch can convey anger, love, warmth, coldness, hostility, etc.
While tactile communication is basic to human beings, that doesn't mean that culture and context don't enter into the equation of meaning. While we all respond to touch regardless of culture, HOW we react to a touch will vary depending on culture, life experience, and so on.
Nowadays,when one says the word "touch",the first thing that may come to mind is something erotic right?(o come on,there is no need to squirm and blush).Anyway,most physical touch is not erotic at all. It can be:
a)The woman who holds her grieving friend
b)A high five amongst friends
On a concluding note,A touch is a very powerful and comforting form of means of human communication.

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