Let’s see what science has to say.
Researchers at Goldsmiths, London University, carried out two studies.
In the first, participants hugged for one, five, or 10 seconds – with two different arm crossing styles and reported how pleasant, arousing, and under control the touch felt.
They found that a hug lasting between five and ten seconds long was the most pleasant to receive, One-second hugs were found to be the least pleasant.
In terms of style, researchers looked at two different hugging styles. either “criss-cross” or “neck-waist.” The former has the hugger entwine the other in a diagonal pattern, with one arm on the shoulder and the other around the side; the latter sees the hugger with their arms around the other’s necks, or just under their shoulders. The results indicated that the style of a hug made no difference.
In the image below, the woman without the mask is demonstrating the criss-cross hug on the left, while the one on the right is demonstrating the neck waist style.
In the second experiment, researchers observed hugs between 206 men and women on the Goldsmiths campus and prompted them to rate their experience on a scale of zero to 100.
Despite gender and height differences, the criss-cross style was the most common approach between men and women. However, same-gender hugs saw a different approach, in which the criss-cross style was most prevalent among two hugging men, while two women or mixed-gender hugs saw more variation.
The study adds to data about the differences between men and women and how they approach contact with others. Last year, a study found that women are more driven by heredity to crave skin-on-skin — called “skin hunger”— whereas men are more influenced by their environment, meaning their personal or cultural experience.
I know the next time I hug someone I will be counting to see how long it lasts, trying to hit that sweet spot of 5-10 seconds. It could get awkward if the other person tries to break it off before then, because there’s no way I’m letting go before my time is up….
In closing, I have to admit that the first thing I thought about when I heard mention of this study on my car radio was this classic clip from the Simpsons: