Welcome to Influence, Psychology and Persuasion

This is session number 020 of Influence Psychology and Persuasion. This session is all about how we can be influenced by the power of touch. Beware of the power of touch.


So, the power of touch. Babies and children reach out for their mothers, and it’s usually the slightest of touches that will calm them. Lovers lie in bed and reach over to one another and even the lightest of touches can make them feel that connection.

The Power of Touch

If someone touched you who you didn’t know while you’re out, it would generate certain feelings for sure. Touch is a way that we connect with others. Touch isn’t just about love, or sexual connection or compassion. Think about wrestlers, they’re rolling around smothered in oil touching every part of each other but actually trying to hurt each other.

Without a doubt though, a touch is extremely powerful but did you know that if done tactfully in the right way, in the right situations, it can also prove very influential and persuasive? So this is a tool that is maybe being used on you or you can use to your advantage, ethically of course.

The power of touch podcast was inspired by French psychologist named Nicholas Gueguen. He conducted a number of experiments on the power of touch and a large number of the studies show the surprising effect to have a small touch of a second or so and how it can dramatically affect the help someone is willing to give and also the persuasive element.

Power of Touch Experiments

One of the small experiments was carried out by an American researcher who approached the number of people in the street. They asked each of the people for a dime, by including a very brief touch on the upper arm dramatically increased the likelihood of receiving money by 20%. Similar studies have been done by asking people to sign petitions, even leaving tips for waiters so watch out for those next time you go out for food. A simple touch by the waiter or waitress or even the Barman at the right time can increase the amount you will spend and are willing to tip. So that’s my tip to you watch out for that touch.

It was then questioned whether this powerful light touch on the upper arm could improve a person’s chances when trying to find a date. Surely this is the ultimate test of persuasiveness and influence.

The researcher then arranges for a young lad in his 20s to approach women in a nightclub. They were carefully controlled approaches, this was to make sure that they were all consistent to keep the data nice and clean. It was decided that the approaches would happen whenever a slow song would play, and the man would simply walk over and say “Hello, my name is Antoine. Do you want to dance?” Now talk about keeping it clean and simple, in fact, I wouldn’t even have classed that as a chat up line. That’s simply a question. Anton was asked to touch the upper arm of half of the women, but not on the other half. If the women said no to a dance, then he simply replied: “too bad, maybe another time?” And then moved away and tried his luck once more until he had hit his quota.

A very similar study was then carried out that this time approaching women in the street and asking for telephone numbers. As you can imagine this is not the typical scene for chatting up or picking up partners in any way shape or form. In my mind, it couldn’t get any colder, and the more difficult task I dare you to find.

These men approached 240 women, and each time they told the girls they were very pretty and they suggested that they went for a drink later in the day. But also asked if they had a telephone number. As the same as before, half of them made the touch lightly on the arm just as they delivered this chat up line. Can you imagine how awkward that would be?

Well, interestingly enough the results and experiment were absolutely staggering. 43% of the ladies in the nightclub accepted a dance from the stranger when they weren’t touched, but 65% accepted, even after the briefest of touches. The researchers who did the street team to obtain the telephone numbers found that 10% of women took compliments that the men had given them, and they agreed to give them their telephone numbers. However, this number doubles with a slight touch!

There are so many reasons that this touch could be so powerful, the first and obvious one regarding the flirting and dating could be to do with the sex status of the person. Women find confident and powerful men sexually attractive. That could be one of the reasons, but can that really be so for women caught off-guard while walking the streets about their business?

The takeaway from this is real, beware of an ask from someone who touches you, as you’ll be far more likely to say yes regardless of what they ask you. Pause for a moment, take a sense check, and try to decide what you actually want to do, rather than what you’ve been persuaded by your own psychology to do.