The biology of touch is something that we’ve been exploring for a significant amount of time. We’ve seen and repeatedly demonstrated that not only is physical touch incredibly important for health, happiness and overall wellbeing, we’ve also been able to analyze and understand why that happens. It turns out that we are very deeply hardwired for touch. Here’s where touch technology comes in.
Touch or haptic sense, just happens to be the only one of our 5 senses that we cannot live without.
It’s unclear whether the advent of touch screen technology came about as part of an effort to utilize this in-born nature, or whether it synchronously aligns with a growing body of touch-research.
Throughout the development of touch technology we’ve seen numerous iterations and styles of screens that allow us to more physically interact with virtual reality. The current versions of touch screen technology can measure multiple points of contact, different pressures and are incredibly responsive to our contact.
Why do touch screens have us hooked?
Research shows that the psychology of touch has been incredibly influential in the rapid rise of touch-based interface technology. Now that we have the technology available, researchers have identified some reasons as to why we gravitate towards and fixate on touch-technology.
A study by Adam Brasel and James Gips discusses the use of touch-based technologies and how it effectively changes our relationship with the virtual world. Brasel & Gops note that touch-screen technology significantly influences the way we interact with and use the Internet.
Tablets and Smartphones account for a considerable amount of online purchases, and heavily influence the way we feel about a product, service or experience. This is where the biology of touch comes in, and it’s why touch-screen technology is here to stay.
In the human brain, there is only a small degree of difference between a simulated event and an actual event. Oftentimes the measurable results are quite comparable. When we touch an object in a store, we are far more likely to buy that product (or at least something at the store) because we have interacted with it to some degree and therefore we have already begun the process of owning it (mentally).
The psychology of ownership-through-touch translates well to a touch-screen when we physically place our finger on the image of it. When compared to a desktop click-interaction, touch-screen interactions create greater feelings of connection to the item, and a deeper sense of what it would be like to own it.
Not only do touch screens help us feel like we already own a particular product, the phone itself feels more like an extension of ourselves. Where desktops and laptop computers are not often associated with a sense of self, tablets and Smartphones are. In some instances they become our “window to the world” where we get to participate in an environment that is artificial but made all the more real through tactile involvement.
Greater connection and involvement is something we all crave, as social creatures. We are hardwired to find our place in the world and interact with it through touch. The biology of touch explains why we all love our touch-screen devices [perhaps] a little too much.
This posts was originally published in our Quarterly E-Magazine: Touch & Technology edition. If you’d like to reach more about touch technology, please take a look at our magazine.