Physical contact prevents violence

by Ken Blackman  Dec 23, 2013

[caption id="attachment_999" align="alignleft" width="300"]Somatosensory pleasure Somatosensory pleasure -- physical contact[/caption]

One of my all-time favorite articles is titled Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence. The author's proposal is simple. Where pleasurable physical touch is high, violence is low. And vice versa.

In the author's words:

"As a developmental neuropsychologist I have devoted a great deal of study to the peculiar relationship between violence and pleasure. I am now convinced that the deprivation of physical sensory pleasure is the principal root cause of violence."
He then goes on to present an avalanche of supporting evidence. The correlation shows up in animal behavioral studies. It shows up in animal brain studies. ("When the brain's pleasure circuits are 'on,' the violence circuits are 'off,' and vice versa.") It shows up in child abuse research. ("Parents who abused their children were invariably deprived of physical affection themselves during childhood and that their adult sex life was extremely poor...almost without exception the women who abused their children had never experienced orgasm.") It can be seen in infants hospitalized or institutionalized for extended periods, getting little physical touch.

And it can be seen across cultures. The author himself pored through a ton of behavioral data collected on 49 different cultures. In every single case, wherever people lavish their babies with affection, have open attitudes about sex, and so forth--basically where physical contact is accepted and encouraged--you will find low incidence of things like theft, murder, slavery, torture, rape. Where pleasurable contact is shunned or banned, the culture tends towards violence.

Here's the article if you want to read more.

If you prefer to listen, the article is narrated here (YouTube, 46 min)