NPR Morning Edition recently had a story on the benefits of human touch. Not that there was any news in it, but it summarizes some of the science:
Social scientists have shown in many studies over the years that supportive touch can have good outcomes in a number of different realms. Consider the following examples: If a teacher touches a student on the back or arm, that student is more likely to participate in class. The more athletes high-five or hug their teammates, the better their game. A touch can make patients like their doctors more....Some questions:
If somebody touches you, there's pressure pushing on your skin at the point of contact. And just under the skin are pressure receptors called "Pacinian corpuscles," .... The Pacinian corpuscles' signals go directly to an important nerve bundle deep in the brain called the vagus nerve. The vagus sometimes is called "the wanderer" because it has branches that wander throughout the body to several internal organs, including the heart. And it's the vagus nerve that then slows the heart down and decreases blood pressure.
Hand-holding or hugging also results in a decrease of the stress hormone cortisol, says Matt Hertenstein, an experimental psychologist at DePauw University in Indiana. "Having this friendly touch, just somebody simply touching our arm and holding it, buffers the physiological consequences of this stressful response," Hertenstein says. In addition to calming us down and reducing our stress response, a friendly touch also increases release of the oxytocin — also called the "cuddle hormone" — which affects trust behaviors. "Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding," Hertenstein says.
Does your church celebrate the laying on of hands? How, and what is the response?
Is a friendly touch in Sunday school and counseling reconcilable with safeguards to protect children and reduce sexual misconduct?