The science of hugging

You may think yourself a good hugger, but does science agree?...
17 December 2021




Recent findings suggest hugs that last between five and ten seconds are the most pleasant...

Anna Lena Düren of Goldsmiths University undertook a two part study to find the most pleasant and most common hugging style.

‘Hugging is so common and means a lot to people, which makes it an important topic to research,’ says Düren.

48 participants were blindfolded and hugged 6 times, comprising two arm crossing styles (neck-to-waist and criss-cross) at three different durations (1, 5 or 10 seconds). Participants had to rate how pleasant, under control and arousing they found each hug immediately after exposure as well as at the three and six minute time point.

Pleasant ratings were not dependent on arm-crossing style; however, one second hugs were found to be less pleasant than those that lasted five or ten seconds.

To test for the most common hugging style, Düren and her fellow researchers ventured outside asking people whether they would share a hug with the person they were socialising with. The arm crossing style (neck-to-waist or criss-cross) was recorded showing that criss-cross was the most common. Criss-crossing arms during hugging was found to be significantly more common between men than between women or mixed dyads.

Düren points out that there were many factors that were not controlled during the study such as pressure of hug, context, stroking etc. making it hard to say what makes the best hug. However, one second hugs were found to be rated as less pleasant than longer hugs.


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