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Touch is the first of our senses to develop, providing us with the sensory scaffold on which we come to perceive our own bodies and our sense of self. Touch also provides us with direct access to the external world of physical objects, via haptic exploration. Furthermore, a recent area of interest in tactile research across studies of developing children and adults is its social function, mediating interpersonal bonding. Although there are a range of demonstrations of early competence with touch, particularly in the domain of haptics, the review presented here indicates that many of the tactile perceptual skills that we take for granted as adults (e.g., perceiving touches in the external world as well as on the body) take some time to develop in the first months of postnatal life, likely as a result of an extended process of connection with other sense modalities which provide new kinds of information from birth (e.g., vision and audition). Here, we argue that because touch is of such fundamental importance across a wide range of social and cognitive domains, it should be placed much more centrally in the study of early perceptual development than it currently is.

Original publication




Journal article


Adv Child Dev Behav

Publication Date





227 - 268


Affective touch, Body representation, Haptics, Infancy, Multisensory development, Multisensory processes, Object perception, Perceptual development, Proprioception, Self, Spatial perception, Tactile development, Touch, Visual development, Adult, Body Image, Child, Child, Preschool, Concept Formation, Feedback, Sensory, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Interpersonal Relations, Memory, Object Attachment, Orientation, Pregnancy, Proprioception, Self Concept, Touch Perception, Visual Perception