Affective touch: A meta-analysis on perceived pleasantness in healthy adults
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Interpersonal touch plays an important role in human life and has physical and mental health benefits during development and adulthood. A specific type of interpersonal touch that is experienced as pleasant is affective touch (AT), which is characterized by slow stroking. On the contrary, non-affective touch (non-AT) is perceived as less pleasant than AT and is characterized by fast stroking. In the current study, meta-analyses were performed with the aim of quantifying the difference in perceived pleasantness between AT and non-AT in healthy adults. In addition, several moderators were identified to assess what factors would influence the perceived pleasantness of AT. Results showed that AT is perceived as more pleasant than non-AT. Moreover, mean pleasantness ratings were calculated for both AT and nonAT, which can be used in future research to make comparisons. These mean pleasantness ratings are baseline ratings of pleasantness, as no studies were included that assessed the pleasantness of (non-)AT during the performance of a task. More importantly, these baseline ratings can be considered as a baseline on how people perceived (non-)AT before the COVID-19 pandemic, which gives some interesting starting points for future research. Finally, the current study gave insight into methodological aspects that could influence the perceived pleasantness of AT. Even though some limitations have to be taken into account when interpreting the results of the current study, it contributed to a broader knowledge on the perception of AT.