Last week, when I talked about the Internet of Things, I promised there would be robots. But first, let's talk about humans. The Internet of Things is defined as uniquely identifiable objects, people, or animals represented in a virtual system.
Interpersonal touch is of paramount importance in human social bonding and close relationships, allowing a unique channel for affect communication. So far the effect of touch on human physiology has been studied at an individual level. The present study aims at extending the study of affective touch from isolated individuals to truly interacting dyads. We have designed an ecological paradigm where romantic partners interact only via touch and we manipulate their empathic states. Simultaneously, we collected their autonomic activity (skin conductance, pulse, respiration). 14 couples participated to the experiment. We found that interpersonal touch increased coupling of electrodermal activity between the interacting partners, regardless the intensity and valence of the emotion felt. In addition, physical touch induced strong and reliable changes in physiological states within individuals. These results support an instrumental role of interpersonal touch for affective support in close relationships. Furthermore, they suggest that touch alone allows the emergence of a somatovisceral resonance between interacting individuals, which in turn is likely to form the prerequisites for emotional contagion and empathy.