Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Touch forms a central component of social bonding, both in primates and in humans, via the brain's endorphin system. In primates, this involves social grooming, acting via the CT neuron system. Although humans still use soft touch for bonding relationships, they have had to find ways of triggering the endorphin system without the need for physical touch in order to be able to increase the size of their social groups beyond the size of those characteristic of monkeys and apes. These behaviors include laughter, singing, dancing, the rituals of religion, feasting and emotional storytelling, and act functionally as a form of ‘virtual touch’. I summarise recent behavioral, neurobiological and genetic evidence demonstrating that these behaviors both enhance bonding and act through the endorphin system.

Original publication




Journal article


Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences

Publication Date





14 - 19