Mediated social touch: a review of current research and future directions


In this paper, we review research and applications in the area of mediated or remote social touch. Whereas current communication media rely predominately on vision and hearing, mediated social touch allows people to touch each other over a distance by means of haptic feedback technology. Overall, the reviewed applications have interesting potential, such as the communication of simple ideas (e.g., through Hapticons), establishing a feeling of connectedness between distant lovers, or the recovery from stress. However, the beneficial effects of mediated social touch are usually only assumed and have not yet been submitted to empirical scrutiny. Based on social psychological literature on touch, communication, and the effects of media, we assess the current research and design efforts and propose future directions for the field of mediated social touch.

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  1. 1.

    There is one cutaneous submodality that can be perceived from outside the peripersonal space (i.e., without direct contact with the body), namely warmth (see [1]).

  2. 2.

    We prefer to use the term kinesthesia instead of proprioception, as the latter is ill-defined (see [13]). Following Sherrington [121], who coined the term, proprioception is the sense of body position and movement and includes sensations from the muscle and joint receptors (i.e., the kinesthetic system) as well as from the semicircular canals and otolith organs (i.e., the vestibular system).

  3. 3.

    Cutaneous perception, especially through the stretching of the skin, might play a role in the sensation of body limb movement and position as well (see [13]).

  4. 4.

    Note that this contradicts the popular statement that "one cannot not communicate" ([122], p. 49); the logical derivative of the view that all interpersonal interaction is communicative (for a further discussion see e.g., [56]).


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Correspondence to Antal Haans.

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This research was supported by the JF Schouten School for User-System Interaction Research at Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

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Haans, A., IJsselsteijn, W. Mediated social touch: a review of current research and future directions. Virtual Reality 9, 149–159 (2006).

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  • Physical contact
  • Social touch
  • Interpersonal interaction
  • Literature review
  • Computer mediated communication
  • Haptic feedback