Scientist say the perfect hug should last more than five seconds – but there is one problem | Adrian Chiles

Too-quick embraces are less pleasant, according to research. But how do you get the other person to stand still for long enough?

I salute the open-access science journal Acta Psychologica for publishing a paper entitled The influence of duration, arm-crossing style, gender and emotional closeness on hugging behaviour. The top lines for you: hugs lasting one second were rated as less pleasant and less under control than five- and 10-second hugs. There’s also something I didn’t really understand about men being more likely to hug other men in a different arm-crossing style than women.

I’m not quite sure what to do with this information. I’m looking for someone to hug to see what kind of duration I generally roll with. This will be difficult to determine as, unless I get the use of a dummy in a shop window, I wouldn’t be in sole control of the duration. It takes two to hug, after all. This issue is doubtless addressed in the main body of the paper but I’m afraid the scientific language became impenetrable as soon as I got past the abstract.

Actually, on reflection, it is an entirely passive event for my daughters when I give them a hug, as I sense they’d really prefer I didn’t. I just tend to cling on until they free themselves. I doubt I’ve ever got them past the 10-second mark.

In any case, can you ever change your hugging technique and timings? I believe you get stuck in your own groove until such time as someone suggests you try something different. I chanced my luck during a sub-five-second hug with my younger daughter, when I dropped her at a station on Saturday. I asked her not to twist her head away so much, as if she was trying to avoid picking up a strong smell. She released me immediately, told me I was a freak – in the nicest possible way – and went off to get her train.

  • Adrian Chiles is a Guardian columnist


Adrian Chiles

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