Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 43–62 | Cite as

Touching Behavior in Sport: Functional Components, Analysis of Sex Differences, and Ethological Considerations

  • Linda M. KneidingerEmail author
  • Terry L. Maple
  • Stuart A. Tross


Little research exists regarding sex differences in touching behavior in sport or recreational settings. This study investigates sex differences in amounts, types, and factors influencing same-sex touching in a sport context. Subjects were 119 members of four men's college varsity baseball teams and 52 members of three women's college varsity softball teams. All touches performed on-field between team members were recorded and classified using an ethogram designed for this study. As hypothesized, statistically significant differences were found in the following areas: females performed more touching behaviors than males, almost half of the behavior types observed were performed more frequently by one sex than the other, males performed touching behaviors more frequently at away than home games, females performed touching behaviors more frequently at home than away games, and females performed more touching behaviors than males after negative game events. The findings and implications are discussed in relation to the touching behavior literature, ethology, and comparative psychology.

touch sex differences sport 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anastasi, A. (1988). Psychological testing. (6th ed.). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Anderton, C. H., & Heckel, R. V. (1985). Touching behaviors of winners and losers in swimming races. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 60, 289-290.Google Scholar
  3. Baesler, E. J., & Burgoon, J. K. (1987). Measurement and reliability of nonverbal behavior. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 11, 205-233.Google Scholar
  4. Chapman, A. J. (1973). Social facilitation of laughter in children. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 9, 528-541.Google Scholar
  5. Cramer, H. (1946). Mathematical methods of statistics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Crawford, C. B. (1994). Effects of sex and sex roles on same-sex touch. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 78, 391-394.Google Scholar
  7. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  8. Darwin, C. (1965). The expression of the emotions in man and animals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1872).Google Scholar
  9. Deaux, K. (1984). From individual differences to social categories: Analysis of a decade's research on gender. American Psychologist, 39, 105-116.Google Scholar
  10. Dosser, D. A., Jr., Balswick, J. O., & Halverson, C. F., Jr. (1983). Situational context of emotional expressiveness. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 30, 375-387.Google Scholar
  11. Eagly, A. H. (1987). Reporting sex differences. American Psychologist, 42, 756-757.Google Scholar
  12. Eagly, A. H. (1995). The science and politics of comparing women and men. American Psychologist,50, 145-158.Google Scholar
  13. Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (1991). Explaining sex differences in social behavior: A metaanalytic perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17, 306-315.Google Scholar
  14. Ekman, P. (1972). Universals and cultural differences in facial expressions of emotion. In J. K. Cole (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation: Vol. 19. (pp. 207-283). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  15. Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1969). Nonverbal leakage and clues to deception. Psychiatry, 32, 88-106.Google Scholar
  16. Ekman, P., & Rosenberg, E. (1997). What the face reveals. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Fridlund, A. (1994). Human facial expression: An evolutionary view. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  18. Friedman, H. S., & Miller-Herringer, T. (1991). Nonverbal display of emotion in public and in private: Self-monitoring, personality, and expressive cues. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 766-775.Google Scholar
  19. Ganong, L. H., & Coleman, M. (1985). Sex, sex roles, and emotional expressiveness. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 146, 405-411.Google Scholar
  20. Garfield, C. A., & Bennett, H. A. (1985). Peak performance: Mental training techniques of the world's greatest athletes. Los Angeles: Tarcher.Google Scholar
  21. Halberstadt, A. G., & Saitta, M. B. (1987). Gender, nonverbal behavior, and perceived dominance: A test of the theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 257-272.Google Scholar
  22. Hall, J. A., & Veccia, E. M. (1990). More "touching" observations: New insights on men, women, and interpersonal touch. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1155-1162.Google Scholar
  23. Hall, K. R. L., & DeVore, I. (1965). Baboon social behavior. In I. DeVore (Ed.), Primate behavior (pp. 53-110). New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  24. Hanson, R. A., & Mullis, R. L. (1985). Age and gender differences in empathy and moral reasoning among adolescents. Child Study Journal, 15, 181-188.Google Scholar
  25. Heckel, R. V., Allen, S. S., & Blackmon, D. C. (1986). Tactile communication of winners in flag football. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 63, 553-554.Google Scholar
  26. Henley, N. M. (1973). Status and sex: Some touching observations. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 2, 91-93.Google Scholar
  27. Heslin, R., & Boss, D. (1980). Nonverbal intimacy in airport arrival and departure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 6, 248-252.Google Scholar
  28. Ickes, W., Tooke, W., Stinson, L., Baker, V. L., & Bissonnette, V. (1988). Naturalistic social cognition: Intersubjectivity in same-sex dyads. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 12, 58-84.Google Scholar
  29. Kalliopuska, M. (1987). Relation of empathy and self-esteem to active participation in Finnish baseball. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 65, 107-113.Google Scholar
  30. Larsen, K. S., & LeRoux, J. (1984). A study of same-sex touching attitudes: Scale development and personality predictors. The Journal of Sex Research, 20, 264-278.Google Scholar
  31. Lorenz, K. (1958). The evolution of behavior. Scientific American, 199, 67-78.Google Scholar
  32. Lorenz, K. (1971). Studies in animal and human behaviour: Vol. 2 (R. Martin, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Lorenz, K., & Leyhausen, P. (1973). Motivation of human and animal behavior: An ethological view (B. A. Tonkin, Trans.). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.Google Scholar
  34. Major, B. (1981). Gender patterns in touching behavior. In C. Mayo & N. M. Henley (Eds.), Gender and nonverbal behavior (pp. 15-37). New York; Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  35. Major, B., Schmidlin, A. M., & Williams, L. (1990). Gender patterns in social touch: The impact of setting and age. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 634-643.Google Scholar
  36. Maple, T., & Howard, S. (1977, April). The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat: Ethological correlates. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Society of Primatologists, Seattle, WA.Google Scholar
  37. McGrew, W. C. (1972). An ethological study of children's behavior. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  38. Morris, D. (1977). Manwatching: A field guide to human behaviour. New York: Harry N. Abrams.Google Scholar
  39. Pleck, J. H. (1976). The male sex role: Definitions, problems, and sources of change. Journal of Social Issues, 32, 155-164.Google Scholar
  40. Riggio, R. E., Tucker, J., & Coffaro, D. (1989). Social skills and empathy. Personality and Individual Differences, 10, 93-99.Google Scholar
  41. Schaller, G. B. (1963). The mountain gorilla. Ecology and behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  42. Shuter, R. (1979). A study of nonverbal communication among Jews and Protestants. The Journal of Social Psychology, 109, 31-41.Google Scholar
  43. Siegel, S., & Castellan, N. J., Jr. (1988). Nonparametric statistics for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  44. Stier, D. S., & Hall, J. A. (1984). Gender differences in touch: An empirical and theoretical review. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 440-459.Google Scholar
  45. Sugiyama, Y. (1990). A sex difference in hand-to-hand touching behavior in volleyball games: A preliminary study. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 71, 1002.Google Scholar
  46. van Lawick-Goodall, J. (1968). A preliminary report on expressive movements and communication in the Gombe Stream chimpanzees. In P.C. Jay (Ed.), Primates (pp. 313-374). New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  47. Willis, F. N., & Rawdon, V. A. (1994). Gender and national differences in attitudes toward same-gender touch. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 78, 1027-1034.Google Scholar
  48. Wilson, W. L., & Wilson, C. C. (1968). Aggressive interactions of captive chimpanzees living in a semi-free-ranging environment. 6571st Aeromedical Research Laboratory Technical Report No. ARL-TR-68-9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda M. Kneidinger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Terry L. Maple
    • 2
  • Stuart A. Tross
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of School PsychologyTemple UniversityGeorgia
  2. 2.School of Psychology. Zoo AtlantaAtlantaGeorgia
  3. 3.Bristol-Myers Squibb CompanyPrinceton

Personalised recommendations