Haptics is the study of touching and how it is used in communication. Handshakes, holding hands, kissing, back slapping, high fives, brushing up against someone or pats all have meaning. Touching is the most developed sense at birth and formulates our initial views of the world. Touching can be used to sooth, for amusement during play, to flirt, to expressing power and maintaining bonds between people such as with baby and mother. Touching can carry distinct emotions and also show the intensity of those emotions. Touch absent of other cues can signal anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude and sympathy depending on the length and type of touching that is performed. Many factors also contribute to the meaning of touching such as the length of the touch and location on the body in which the touching takes place.
In western cultures touching is infrequent which makes it even more significant when it happens. French and Italians for example, tend to touch frequently even continuously while walking, whereas the British prefer not to touch at all. At sporting events and especially in celebration of victory or success, such as scoring a goal or point, touching among male athletes is permitted whereas in the dressing room, a hands-off policy is the norm. Cultures that accept touching more often are India, Turkey, France, Italy, Greece, Spain, the Middle East, Parts of Asia and Russia whereas no touching cultures includes Germany, Japan, England, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Estonia, Portugal, Northern Europe and Scandinavia.
In the workplace, touching is fairly uncommon. We therefore use the handshake as a universal form of touching to avoid offending others. More intimate forms of touching sometimes occurs such as a friendly pat on the back to display encouragement but generally speaking, touching at work should be kept to a minimum. We cover cultural differences with respect to touching in a dedicated chapter.