About this Research Topic
Interpersonal or social touch is an intuitive and powerful way to express and communicate emotions, comfort a friend, bond with teammates, comfort a child in pain, and soothe someone who is stressed. If there is one thing that the current pandemic is showing us, it is that social distancing can make some people crave physical interaction through social touch. The notion of “skin-hunger” has become tangible for many.
Social touch differs at a functional and anatomical level from discriminative touch, and has clear effects at physiological, emotional, and behavioural levels. Social touch is a topic in psychology (perception, emotion, behaviour), neuroscience (neurophysiological pathways), computer science (mediated touch communication), engineering (haptic devices), robotics (social robots that can touch), humanities (science and technology studies), and sociology (the social implications of touch). Our current scientific knowledge of social touch is scattered across disciplines and not yet adequate for the purpose of meeting today's challenges of connecting human beings through the mediating channel of technology.
Advancing our understanding of social touch requires contributions from many disciplines, including but not limited to the life sciences - neuroscience, physiology, psychology and sociology; and on the technical side, computer science, robotics, materials science and other engineering disciplines. Our main goal is to share knowledge across such disciplines and contribute to inspiring multidisciplinary approaches towards many relevant questions. For example - What are the effects of social touch deprivation on well-being and emotional functioning?
How can we mitigate the effects of skin-hunger in times of social distancing and can technology help?
Can social touch be mediated through technology and what are the boundary conditions?
How can virtual agents and social robots be given social touch capabilities?
How are the social touch and discriminative touch systems integrated?
What are the cultural differences in the use and understanding of social touches?
How can we incorporate social touch in design and development of products and media?
What is the effect of (conflicting) social concerns on (mediated) social touch?
Is there a social touch etiquette and is it ready for the current decade?
How can we ensure social touch technology is private and secure?
We encourage a multidisciplinary perspective on the topic of social touch and welcome submissions that in a broad sense address one or more of the topics below:
• neurophysiology and neuroscience of social touch (c-tactile afferents)
• mediated social touch including haptic hardware and wearables, privacy, transmission protocols, and social touch sensors, signal processing and interpretation
• social touch in care and therapy
• social touch in humanities, arts, education
• soft robotics
• behavioural effects of social touch
• social and cultural aspects of social touch
• physiological effects of social touch
• social touch in VR, AR and shared environments
Keywords: Touch, somatosensation, skin-hunger, c-tactile afferents, affective touch
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.