Tim Brockley/Flickr

Some people really hate hugs, apparently.

Do you greet a stranger by kissing them on the cheek or giving them a firm handshake?

In the largest study ever quantifying where people were comfortable being touched and by whom, 1,300 men and women were asked the same question. The results suggest that when greeting most people, you’re better off with a handshake.

The participants, from Finland, France, Italy, Russia, and the U.K., detailed where strangers, family members, friends, and romantic partners were allowed to touch them. Researchers from the University of Oxford and Finland’s Aalto University then combined the results to create a so-called “heat map.”

(University of Oxford and Finland’s Aalto University)

For almost everyone, the hands are okay. Unsurprisingly, no one wanted relatives of any gender to touch their genitals. And, regardless of nationality, researchers found that the closeness of the relationship correlated with the range of areas that can be touched. There were, however, some unexpected results.

Robin Dunbar, an Oxford University professor who co-authored the study, tells Quartz: “We were a bit surprised at how reluctant men were [to be touched] compared to women.” The heat map showed that men weren’t even comfortable with other male strangers touching the back of their heads—it was a “taboo zone.”

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlighted the importance of touch in communicating positive emotions. Humans are quite similar to monkeys and apes in that respect, where touch is crucial in establishing and maintaining social bonds.

There weren’t a significant number of cultural differences when it came to where participants would allow family, friends and strangers to touch them; but some nationalities were less enthusiastic about touching than others. True to their stereotype, British participants were right at the bottom on the touchability index.

To the researchers’ surprise, Italians were less comfortable with being touched than Russians.

“We hadn’t expected the Finns to turn out to be the most cuddly people,” Dunbars says, “or that the Italians are almost as uncuddly as the Brits.”

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

More from Quartz:

The Woman Who Reviewed 30,000 Books on Amazon

Math Scores Are Slipping Among American Students

There’s a Good Chance the “Wild” Salmon You Just Ordered Was Actually Farmed

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    Who’s Really Buying Property in San Francisco?

    A lot of software developers, according to an unprecedented new analysis.

  2. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  3. a rendering of the moon village with a view of Earth
    Design

    Designing the First Full-Time Human Habitat on the Moon

    SOM, in partnership with the ESA and MIT, wants to accommodate research and maybe even tourism on the moon.

  4. Transportation

    Electric Scooters Aren’t a Transportation Revolution Yet

    New data show a staggering rise in shared dockless e-scooter use nationwide. But commuting habits have seen little change since the dawn of micromobility.

  5. a photo of a man surveying a home garage.
    Transportation

    How Single-Family Garages Can Ease California's Housing Crisis

    Given the affordable housing crisis, California cities should encourage single-family homeowners to convert garages into apartments and accessory dwelling units.