Touch, status, and gender at professional meetings
- Cite this article as:
- Hall, J.A. J Nonverbal Behav (1996) 20: 23. doi:10.1007/BF02248713
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Observers unobtrusively recorded instances of interpersonal touch at three large academic meetings (two of psychologists, one of philosophers). The names and affiliations of the individuals involved in these touches were later referred to published sources in order to develop codes reflecting the relative personal and institutional statuses of these individuals. There was mixed but on balance no overall evidence that higher-status individuals touched lower-status individuals more than vice versa. However, higher- and lower-status individuals initiated different kinds of touch. Higher-status individuals initiated touch that was judged more often to be affectionate and that was more often directed to the arm or shoulder, whereas lower-status individuals initiated more formal touches and handshakes. Gender asymmetry in touch was very weak overall, but favored male-to-female over female-to-male touch when the two individuals had equal professional status.