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Touch Lubricates Sports -- and every other interaction

The New York Times reports on new research from Dacher Keltner of the University of California at Berkeley. Keltner, author of Born to Be Good, has done a lot of exciting work showing oxytocin's effects on positive social interactions that don't reach the level of bonding and love.

The latest study, by Michael W. Kraus, Cassy Huang, analyzed how much pro basketball players touched each other. They found that, mostly, the teams that touched each other the most were better teams. (As opposed to simply winning, which could account for more touching such as high-fives, the researchers used a scoring method that took into account other things in addition to scoring.)

Teams that made physical contact with each other more often tended to not only do better but to "get more out of" the game. (The article doesn't define this, and the study is still unpublished.)

According to Times writer Benedict Carey,

The touchiest player was Kevin Garnett, the Celtics’ star big man, followed by star forwards Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors and Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz. “Within 600 milliseconds of shooting a free throw, Garnett has reached out and touched four guys,” Dr. Keltner said.

Scientists and psychologists have long known that touch is important in families and between lovers or mates. This is another example of how that oxytocin boost that comes with warm and friendly touch can improve all kinds of human interactions.