So, your friend introduced you to his friend. Do you: a) Reach in for a beso-beso or b) Just shake hands?
It's "b," correct? Society says to NOT get too close immediately with people you've just met. But have you ever thought why?
Scientists from Oxford University may have the answer. They've discovered why we always feel awkward touching (or being touched) by strangers.
Considered as the largest study on how touch relates to our concept of personal space, it asked roughly 1,500 men and women from five countries to color areas of the body that they'd feel okay being touched. The study also considered different relationships and how they affect where we feel comfortable being touched.
Take a look (yellow indicates "okay to be touched" parts while black indicates "not okay to be touched" parts; the red font indicates female relationships and blue indicates male relations):
As expected, the more intimate the relationship is, the larger the areas where it's okay for a person to get touched. Not surprisingly, no one wanted relatives of both genders to touch their genitals.
The study also noted that there are unexpected findings such as men not minding being touched by a female stranger on his private parts. Also, men don't appreciate being touched on the head or feet by an acquaintance— particularly of the same sex. Conversely, women don't have any issues if a friend gets touchy.
In a statement, researcher Julia Suvilehto said: "The touch space map is closely associated with the pleasure caused by touching. The greater the pleasure caused by touching a specific area of the body, the more selectively we allow others to touch it."
As you see, the hand is almost always yellow in color, meaning that even if a person is a stranger, we'd be okay being touched there. Hence, the reason why strangers always begin with a handshake.