Scientists have unlocked the key to giving the perfect hug

The influence of duration, arm crossing style, gender, and emotional closeness on hugging behaviour.
Hugging for between five and 10 seconds is ideal. Photo credit: Getty Images

A new study has found the most pleasing hug is one that lasts between five and ten seconds.

One second hugs were rated the worst.

Researchers found the duration of the embrace the most important factor in how much the huggers enjoyed it, more so than the gender of each person, height difference, their emotional closeness to each other and how their arms were positioned for the hug.

However, the psychologists at Goldsmiths University in London fail to describe how long is too long for a hug.

The study is entitled 'The influence of duration, arm crossing style, gender, and emotional closeness on hugging behaviour' and is published in the journal Acta Psychologica.

It found that hugs do indeed provide an immediate pleasure boost, when done right.

"Special care should be taken to avoid extremely brief hugs, as both our quantitative findings and the subjective answers reported in the supplemental material indicate that they do not constitute the same kind of experience as longer hugs - a finding in concordance with recent research on robot hugs," the study states.

"Hug duration was found to influence the pleasure participants experienced after the hugs. Specifically, the pleasure experienced was higher following five second and 10 second hugs than following one second hugs.

"Additionally, participants indicated higher arousal immediately post-hug compared to three minutes and six minutes post-hug."

In the experiment, participants hugged in either a 'criss-cross' or 'neck-waist' position, which are illustrated in the image below:

Hugging styles:  'criss-cross' vs 'neck-waist' position.
The criss-cross style (L) and the neck-waist position (R). Photo credit: Acta Psychologica

Part of the research involved huggers being blindfolded "to avoid visual feedback influencing touch perception".

When participants were left to decide themselves how to hug, the criss-cross style was the most popular, and was even more common in hugs between men than between women or mixed pairs.

So what is the key to giving the perfect hug?

"Based on our findings, we advise using a five second criss-cross hug to model a familiar and pleasant type of experience," the study states.

"We anticipate that the studies presented here will provide a foundation for future research on pleasant touch, especially for research on hugs, which are highly prevalent but still widely understudied."