The sexual touch

Emotional stereotypes tell us that men are usually hard whereas women will be more soft and tender. A new study has found that these stereotypes actually hold true for how we perceive other people and that the softness or hardness of what we touch impacts how masculine or feminine we perceive people to be.

For the research people were given either a hard ball or a soft ball to hold and squeeze. While they squeezed the ball they were asked to look at pictures of faces on a computer. Each face had been made to look gender neutral so that it was neither clearly female or male. The participants were asked to categorise each face as either male or female.

Those who handled the soft ball were more likely to rate the faces as female while those who handled the hard ball were more likely to perceive the faces as male.

In a second experiment people wrote the answers on a piece of paper with some carbon paper underneath. Some were told to press hard while others were told to press softly. Those who pressed hard perceived a higher percentage of masculine faces while those who pressed softly perceived more feminine faces.

Clearly, the brain uses input from the tactile senses to help it make sense of what it is seeing. This is yet another example of holism in action; it is all of your senses, integrated and acting together that result in how you perceive, and then react to, the world.

The message for those on the dating scene seems clear enough. Ladies, to emphasise your femininity stop him leaning against that hard wall and manoeuvre him onto a lounge. Gentlemen, if you want the object of your aspirations to be impressed with your manly vigour then try to get her away from the plush cushions and get her leaning against a steel girder. Beauty may well be in the eyes of the beholder but those eyes are heavily influenced by what the body touches.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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