If You’re Going to Give a Hug, Make It Count

So you think you know how to give a hug?

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:


*Top image from CNN
**second image from ITV News

74 thoughts on “If You’re Going to Give a Hug, Make It Count

  1. I love giving and receiving hugs! The criss cross with stretching up to the neck doesn’t typically work for me. 🙂
    Just a friendly greeting hug will be short but hugging someone I haven’t seen in a long time or someone who is hurting, goes long beyond 10 seconds.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m a hugger, but I always pay attention to the other person’s body language. Some people are uncomfortable huggers, and no one wants to make them feel weird. When my students were leaving for a break or at the end of a school year, I gave them the option of a hug, high five, fist bump, handshake, or wave. They all chose something, but hugs were the most popular by far.

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  3. I’m a hugger by nature, but not everyone is, so I try to quickly gauge how they are going to react, or how they approach the move. I’m not always accurate, but can generally tell by how their body is moving or not moving

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As they’re sprinting away, that might be a clue.😂 I have this one friend who gives these excessively long hugs (more than 10 seconds). The first couple of times I kept thinking, “Now this is just plain weird, but then I noticed he was that way with everyone.” Saying goodbye to a group of people can take a while.😆

      Liked by 2 people

  4. When it goes a bit of time since I have seen my sister, I actually begin to physically crave one of her hugs. But I am a hugger by nature. Not all my male friends are huggers, but I certainly push their comfort levels when I can.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Simpsons clip is funny, but I’m laughing harder at the image of you holding on for ten seconds when your next hugging partner is pushing away at one. Talk about a captive audience. (I feel like SNL could turn that into a skit.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. you’re right, I forgot about the pats that make up a hug. I guess the researchers did as well…

      I think I’d prefer a hug than a kiss if I were just meeting someone (if those were the two options)…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Strangely, I was thinking about hugs yesterday too. How I abhor them. In the nineties, I encountered a lot of people who refused to shake hands but hugged. Not wanting to seem uptight, I went along with it. I would never do that now. It’s an invasion of my personal space. The *only* person I like to hug is my wife.

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  7. I’m a hugger! Sometimes I just need my husband to hug me for a good 5 mins 🙂 always makes me feel better… I do a thing where I wind up and run to jump on him from 5 meters away lol and he just has to prepare for the lift lol

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  8. I used to be a hugger as we all were in our family and then along came Covid…so now it the “wai” …that could be why Covid infection rates are lower in Asia..just saying…Love the man hug video from Chel…smile x

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  9. I’m just so relieved to finally be able to hug people again and almost fee safe throughout, post-Covid, that I’m sure I will never give any thought to any aspect of any hug I receive ever again, not that I did before!

    Liked by 2 people

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