Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Pondering the psychology of holding hands in romantic love

Why do couples in love hold hands? Is there a non-"imitation of society" (a.k.a environmental) based argument to it? Assuming that not all couples in romantic love that hold hands have acquired the practice from TV and neighbours, how then does this form of affection originate? I'm fascinated because unlike the more primitive forms of affection that have a basis in instinct, hand holding seems a touch more sophisticated. But only a touch. I am well aware that the fingers have a very high nerve density and since the underlying principle of almost all forms of physical affection is stimulation of regions with high nerve density, I am not entirely surprised. Nonetheless, I would put it a tad above the more explicit forms of love. I wonder if hand holding has been studied to be a means of affection among primates? And to what extent? Especially in the great apes? Anyway, leaving the apes and nerve density factors aside for a moment, I see a psychological angle to this too. Could it be that we recall the practice because we held hands as young kids? But then, how do we suddenly recall a practice we never held in our conscious for 20 odd years? Is the subconscious playing such a powerful role? Besides, if it has an origin in our holding hands as young kids, then it is essentially a reminder of maternal/paternal love, implying that couples who hold hands might be seeking a substitute for that love. I wish I had test groups of people to work with. A group of people who are made to fall in love away from home and another who are made to fall in love while staying at home. It would be interesting to see what fraction of couples end up holding hands after falling in love, in both groups. But since I have limited powers in this world, I am resigned to contemplation for now. If any of you have any interesting journal papers to recommend on this subject, please leave the url in the comments section. (I tried a few key words on google scholar but found nothing noteworthy) Thank you.

6 comments:

Mistress of Art said...

hey...an interesting thought alright !...i don't have any journals to offer, but I do have a point based on my personal experiences. I was never a touchy-feely kinda person, from childhood, so obviously its not a gesture that i've picked up from my surrounding environment. But, after two years of engagement to a man, who was also never touchy-feely, I realise that this action of holding hands is something we discovered on our own. I feel that its just a way to keep the communication going, non-verbally that is. The touch seems to be more like an unspoken promise of companionship.

mathew said...

you are a budding Dr.Frasier Crane..;-)

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

@MoA: "...its not a gesture that i've picked up from my surrounding environment. But, after two years of engagement to a man, who was also never touchy-feely, I realise that this action of holding hands is something we discovered on our own"

So you are saying it is nature as opposed to nurture? That is a possibility i've considered too. It would be interesting to see if the great apes hold hands too :)

@Mathew: I googled him and found out he is a sitcom dude! No clue about him but I hope its good :)

Mistress of Art said...

http://deadlinescotland.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/03-barbary-macaques-holding-hands-edinburgh-zoo-medium.jpg

Chk the pic out...they're holding hands alright ! :P...on a more serious note.not nature opposed to nurture, but somewhere down the line i guess all animals, specially dogs, touch to convey.

Harini Vaidyanath said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sunil said...

Hugging and holding hands come from within us for want of "warmth"