Dacher Keltner Discusses the Importance of Physical Contact

Question: How important is human touch to the health of a culture?

Keltner:    The science of touch is just getting off the ground and in part because western European cultures tend to be low-touched cultures.  We don’t touch as much as people in other cultures and, you know, it, first of all, taking a Darwinian evolutionary perspective on it, we, as we lost our hair for thermoregulation purposes, our skin became amazingly rich with all kinds of neurons and networks of receptors to process information of different kinds of touch.  And then we evolved this amazing hand which is different than other primate hands and it’s very dexterous and does a lot of great things, and what the science is showing and, it is stunning, is that when I receive a very friendly form of touch, you know, a stroke to the arm, a pat on the back, it releases oxytocin, a neuropeptide that promotes trust.  It shuts down stress-related parts of the brain like the amygdala, and the locus coeruleus, it activates a branch of the nervous system we study called the vagus nerve, which is involved in connection and by the way, the vagus nerve controls your immune system in part as well, new science suggest.  There are a lot of studies now, dozens showing that warm friendly touch increases weight in premature babies, reduces signs of depression in Alzheimer’s patients.  It’s preventative medicine. 

The Berkeley professor speaks to the essential need for human-to-human contact.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less