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Acta Psychol (Amst). 2009 Feb;130(2):115-26. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2008.10.007. Epub 2008 Dec 6.

Sensory and affective judgments of skin during inter- and intrapersonal touch.

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Center for Neurosensory Disorders, School of Dentistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2160 Old Dental Bldg., Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7450, USA.


Here we report two experiments that investigated the tactile perception of one's own skin (intrapersonal touch) versus the skin of other individuals (interpersonal touch). In the first experiment, thirteen female participants rated, along four perceptual attributes, the skin of their own palm and volar forearm, then that of several of the other participants. Ratings were made using visual analogue scales for perceived smoothness, softness, stickiness, and pleasantness. One's own skin was rated less pleasant than the skin of others. For both intra- and interpersonal touch, the forearm skin was rated smoother, softer, less sticky and more pleasant than the palmar skin. In the second experiment, ten pairs of female participants rated each other's palm and volar forearm skin, with the skin of the touched individual being assessed before and after the application of skin emollients that alter skin feel. As in the first experiment, the untreated skin of others was rated more pleasant than the participants' own skin, and the forearm versus palm differences were replicated. However, the emollient had generally larger effects on self-assessments than the assessments of others, and the site effect showed greater positive sensory and pleasantness increases for palm versus volar forearm. The disparate results of the two experiments suggest that attention, influenced by the ecological importance of the stimulus, is more important to assessment of touched skin than ownership of the skin or the contribution to self-touch made by the additional receptors in the passively touched skin. In both experiments, the pleasantness of touched skin was associated with the skin's perceived smoothness and softness, with weak trends toward negative associations with its perceived stickiness, consistent with prior research using inanimate surfaces (e.g., textiles and sandpapers).

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