Hugs Really Do Help After An Argument, Science Says So

Grant Boone
October 5, 2018

According to the results, the participants who received a hug during the day of conflict were more likely to report a decrease in negative emotions and an increase in positive emotions.

For the study, co-author Michael Murphy, a post-doctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon University's Laboratory for the Study of Stress, Immunity and Disease, and his colleagues, interviewed 404 adults by phone every night. The latest study suggests that receiving hugs from someone can protect you against deleterious changes in mood that are associated with the ups and downs of our social connections and interactions.

The study appears in the journal PLoS ONE.

Oregon Health and Science University offers tips on resolving conflict. It even carried over into the next day, although the drop in negative feelings was more pronounced on the second day than the increase in positive ones. While factors like age and gender did not show much influence on the effects of a hug, women reported a higher number of hugs than men overall.

It stands to reason that social support would make somebody feel better in the throes of a stressful situation, but Murphy says there's conflicting evidence in this area. This may be because people revert to counterproductive behaviors - like giving unsolicited advice, or jumping straight into problem-solving - when they try to support their loved ones, unintentionally making them feel incompetent or criticized, Murphy says.

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A hug really does make you feel better after an argument, according to a new study.

Murphy and Stratyner agreed that people can likely tell the difference between a heartfelt hug and a more perfunctory one.

"The lack of specificity regarding from whom individuals received hugs also restricted our ability to identify whether hugs from specific types of social partners were more effective than those from others", they explained in the paper. The idea was to study the effects of physical touch in a generalized frame, since most studies have largely focused on the role of hugs in romantic relationships.

Although the research is in its early stages, preliminary results suggest consensual hugging might also be a useful method of providing support to people experiencing ongoing relationship conflict.

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