Hug it out! Checking out a study on hugs

Yes, scientists really did a study on how we hug
hugs Sometimes offering unexpected hugs to others can really break down barriers make people feel happy. (ID 21316188 © Kuzma |

Gimme a hug!

Who doesn't love to hear that?

Okay, it is true. Not all of us want to be hugged all the time, or by just anyone. But even the grumpiest among us have to admit that sometimes, nothing makes us feel more warm and cared for than a good hug.

Awwww. That's better!

But how do we hug? For how long? Are certain hugs better than others? Can you guess where we're going with this?

Yes! Scientists did a study on hugs. They collected a group of volunteers, asked them to perform various types of hugs, and got their feedback on what they liked. And now—after a couple years of on-and-off lockdowns and physical distancing, we think it's a great moment to examine this study of the enduring appeal and connection of the hug.

Criss-cross apple sauce!

Embed from Getty Images

A good criss-cross hug—like this one given by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to a person in mourning—brings comfort to others. (Getty Embed)

There are two main ways that we hug each other: neck-waist and criss-cross.

Neck-waist hugs are when one person wraps both arms aroud the other's mid-section, while the other wraps around the first person's neck and shoulders. Criss-cross is when we split that approach—each person puts one arm under the other's armpit, and the other one over their shoulder.

According to this study, we favour the criss-cross method, even if there is a height difference. That's pretty significant because a criss-cross hug is a little harder if one person is taller. As for why we do that, we're still not sure. One hypothesis (guess) is that the criss-cross feels more equal and respectful—it doesn't put one person above the other.

And feeling equal is a pretty important part of a hug.

How long?

Embed from Getty Images

Hugs between competitors is a way of showing respect. (Getty Embed)

Then there's the other important factor. How long a hug lasts.

Apparently the average hug lasts about 3 seconds. (*Counts to self* One ... two ... three ... sounds about right!) But is that ideal? Researchers set up three types: one-second, five-second, and ten-second hugs. What came out on top as being the most satisfying?

If you guessed five, you're on target. A five-second hug was deemed to be most satisfying. Least satisfying? The one-second hug. (Hey, we only just got started and it's already over? Boo!) But maybe a little surprising? The ten-second hugs scored pretty much as high as the five-second hugs did. This is curious because ten seconds is a pretty long time for a hug! The fact that people enjoyed them suggests that we really honestly do love human contact. It is a calming and comforting thing.

We recommend that you conduct your own hug study today (while following COVID protocols, sorry!) and give someone you love a hug. Or two. Or three. Then tell us what you find.

It's for science!

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