What is Touch?


Touch is the concept of physical contact between two objects. In everyday experience, touch can be perceived as one object applying physical force upon another. However, on the scale of atoms, no two particles ever have zero distance between them. Therefore on different scales of measurement touch must be defined and described in different terms. Additionally, as animal skin is lined with pressure and temperature receptors, the term touch is given to the sense that the brain perceives when skin comes in contact with an object.

Most animals, including humans, can perceive five basic senses. The somatosensory system, responsible for the sense of touch, is unique in several ways that makes it an important bonding factor between different animals. The sense of touch perceives only objects in physical contact with the animal, a trait common also to the sense of taste. Therefore intimacy is implied with every object detected by these two senses. However, the sense of taste is usually only stimulated for a few seconds at a time whereas touch may be perceived for many hours, including during sleep. Stimulation of either of these two senses is usually reserved only for those most closely affiliated with an animal or human, such as family members and friends. Stimulation of the taste sense is usually reserved only for sexual partners.

The term touch is often abstracted to express feelings of certain emotions. A particularly happy or sad event is often said to 'touch' those who experience it. Other emotions, such as relief, fear, anger, and surprise, cause no such response. It can be theorized that happiness and sadness are primarily mammalian emotions, while relief, fear, anger, and surprise are experienced by all conscious beings. As survival was often dependant upon these emotions, they are much older in a biological sense. Our bodies are therefore more accustomed to them, and can cope with them more naturally. Extreme happiness or sadness is often accompanied by tears, closure of the throat, and sobbing, therefore 'touching' us.

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