URC

Personality Types and Physical Touch

Zachary Prather
Jenna Bates

Huntington University

Keywords: personality, physical touch, communication

Abstract

The following research is a study looking at the correlation between Myers-Briggs personality types and apprehension or acceptance of physical touch. The participants of the study varied in age and gender, gathered from Facebook and Huntington University’s campus, a small Christian university in the Midwestern United States. We hypothesized that people with the E and F personality type would be the most willing to instigate and accept physical touch, with people with the I and T personality type having the most apprehension to instigating and accepting physical touch. We predicted that extroverts would be more inclined because they are typically more sociable and get their energy from people, while introverts would be less inclined because they are typically more reserved and people drain energy from them. We also hypothesized that people with the F personality type would be more inclined to accept and initiate physical touch because of their predisposition to sympathizing with other people’s emotions, while people with the T personality type are less likely to sympathize with other people’s emotions.

Literature Review

Our research is trying to find a correlation between certain personality types and willingness to accept and instigate physical touch. Because we will be using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, it is important tomention its credibility and acceptance. Since the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is based on a spectrum, and not fitting people into one category or another, it is best to place people into certain personality types (Lloyd, 2012). This is beneficial to our research because we would like to study the comfort and acceptability of personality types and physical touch and for that a spectrum would be the best fit. In fact, other researchers have studied similar topics using the MBTI. The study looked at Myers-Briggs personality types and adult attachment styles (Rosswurm, Pierson, & Woodward, 2007). The study found that healthy relationships called for companionship as well as physical affection. The study found that people classified with the Extroversion and Sensing type personalities were found to have a secure attachment style. Another study tested physical touch using The Big Five personality traits(Frisbie, Fitzpatrick, Du, & Crawford, 2000). This study looked at women’s liking/loving in romantic relationships. The study found that agreeableness was closely related to conflict resolution, emotional support, physical affection, and romantic love. Conscientiousness was related to liking, but not to love. Neuroticism was associated to poor conflict resolution, but still related to love. Openness and extroversion has no relation at all to liking or to love.

Our hypothesis is that extroverts will be more likely to accept and instigate physical touch. In the study by Schaefer, Heinze, & Rotte, (2012) our hypothesis is supported. The study examined the neurological effects on the brain when participants were touched and compared the results with the participants’ personality types. This is important to our study because it reinforces our hypothesis that extroverts are more willing to be touched.

Similar to our research, the article by Dorros, Hanzal, & Segrin, (2008), discussed a study in which researchers examined the relationship between personality traits and physical touch using The Big Five Personality traits. The researchers concluded that agreeableness and openness to experience were the strongest predictors of positive perception of physical touch among the participants.

To understand the correlation between personality and physical touch, an understanding of the relationship between sexual development and personality is required, especially due to the importance of sexual intimacy as a form of affection – or distortion of such affection. A recent study examined the correlation between personality types and sexual development for 14- and 15-year-old boys and girls. The authors of this discussed three different types of personalities: ‘undercontrolling,’ overcontrolling,’ and ‘resilient.’ From these subtypes, it was found that undercontrolling people were more likely to engage in sexual intercourse and less likely to use contraceptives, while resilient and overcontrolling people were less likely to engage in sexual intercourse and more likely to use contraceptives (Baams, Overbeek, Dubas, &van Aken, 2014). In an entirely separate spectrum, it has been found that women with Alexithymia were more likely to accept and desire physical touch and intimacy in close relationships, suggesting that people who understand and control their emotions better do not need physical touch like those who don’t understand and control their emotions well (Hesse & Floyd, 2011).

Another study examined the relationship between physical touch and visual stimuli. Specifically, participants were shown pictures of people who were similar in appearance and people who were dissimilar in appearance. Simultaneously, the participants’ hands and fingers were touched by a machine; the responsiveness of the participants was recorded. The researchers concluded that viewing people similar in appearance while being physically stimulated created stronger nonverbal response from the participants. The researchers even found a correlation between viewing politicians and physical touch – when the participants observed pictures of politicians whom they liked, they were more responsive to the physical touch (Serino, Giovagnoli, & Làdavas (2009).

Parenting also appears to have an important role in physical intimacy. One study has attempted to find a correlation between perceived parental warmth and children’s personalities. The results suggested that these two variables have a high correlation coefficient, with the most prominent characteristics being independence, self-esteem, hostility, and emotional stability (Khaleque, 2013). Another study examined children’s ability to resist instant gratification and receive a larger gift by waiting. The data suggested that children who felt secure in their relationships with their parents chose to resist instant gratification rather than indulging immediately. In turn, the children who had insecure-ambivalent relationships with their parents chose to indulge in the instant gratification rather than wait for the bigger gift (Mittal, Russell, Britner, & Peake, 2013).

Significance

Understanding the physical boundaries of people is important for building interpersonal relationships in a comforting way. By assessing correlations between personality and physical touch, we can potentially be able to ascertain whether another person would like physical touch or would be apprehensive toward it. Understanding physical touch preference can help create a more understanding culture in regards to respecting people’s personal space and comfort levels.

Participants

A survey is among the most convenient tools to assess a large population’s preferences for personality types and physical touch. The participants that we could best use were predominately white heterosexuals in Indiana and Ohio. There were 78 male and 183 female adults who took the survey with varying ages and relationship statuses. The survey was sent through SurveyMonkey via Huntington University’s email system and Facebook. (See Appendix A for the survey questions.)

Measure and Procedure

The variables of interest included the Myers-Briggs personality types (introversion, extroversion, sensing, intuition, thinking, feeling, judging, and perceiving), acceptance of physical touch, initiation of physical touch, age, gender, relationship status, and relationship with the person involved with the physical touch. The survey used a Likert interval scale between 1 and 5, with 1 being “very uncomfortable,” 3 being “neutral,” and 5 being “very comfortable.” The users had confidentiality by submitting their answers anonymously through SurveyMonkey, which records only IP addresses to ensure multiple submissions by the same person could not skew the data.

Results

We found that participants qualified as extroverts were far more likely to accept and initiation physical touch. The significance (2-tailed) for participants qualified as introverted was p<.000 for both physical touch acceptance and initiation with a mean difference of -1.476. Participants qualified as extroverted had a significance of p<.000 for both physical touch and initiation as well, with a mean difference of -1.879. Participants qualified as feelers showed no significant difference (p<.226) with participants qualified as thinkers (p<.211) in terms of acceptance of physical touch, but participants qualified as feelers were significantly more likely to initiate physical touch (p<.017) with participants qualified as thinkers (p<.018). Participants qualified as sensing did not show any significant difference (p<.439) with participants qualified as intuition (p<.440) in terms of physical touch acceptance, nor did participants qualified as sensing show any significant difference (p<.925) with participants qualified as perceiving (p<.925) in terms of willingness to initiate physical touch. Participants qualified as judging did not show any significant difference (p<.661) with participants qualified as perceiving (p<.646) in terms of physical touch acceptance, nor did participants qualified as judging show any significant difference (p<.163) with participants qualified as perceiving (p<.145) in terms of willingness to initiate physical touch.

In terms of acceptance of physical touch, males did not show any significant difference (p<.941) with females (p<.942). Likewise, in terms of willingness to initiate physical touch, males did not show any significant difference (p<.651) with females (p<.653).

In terms of acceptance of physical touch, participants in committed relationships showed no significant difference (p<.114) with participants who were not in committed relationships (p<.118). However, in terms of initiation of physical touch, participants in committed relationships showed a significant difference (p<.025) with participants who were not in committed relationships (p<.026). Married participants, in terms of acceptance of physical touch, showed a significant difference (p<.003) with unmarried participants (p<.001). Likewise, in terms of initiation of physical touch, married participants showed a significant difference (p<.031) with unmarried participants (p<.027).

Discussion

Our hypothesis was found to be supported: that people whose personality type is classified as extroverted tend to exhibit a stronger willingness, in terms of acceptance and initiation, to engage in physical touch. Further, we found that people whose personality type is classified as feeling tend to exhibit a stronger willingness to initiate physical touch, but not necessarily in terms of accepting physical touch from others. We also found that people in married and committed relationships tend to be more likely to initiate physical touch. People who are married, in particular, tend to be more willing to accept physical touch as well.

References

Baams, L., Overbeek, G., Dubas, J. S., van Aken, M. A. G. (2014). On early starters and late bloomers: The development of sexual behavior in adolescence across personality types. Journal of Sex Research, 51(7), 754-764.

Dorros, S., Hanzal, A., & Segrin, C. (2008). The Big Five personality traits and perceptions of touch to intimate and nonintimate body regions. Journal Of Research In Personality, 42(4), 1067-1073.

Frisbie, S. H., Fitzpatrick, J., Du, F., & Crawford, D. (2000). Women’s personality traits, interpersonal competence and affection for dating partners: a test of the contextual model. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 28(6), 585-594.

Hesse, C., & Floyd, K. (2011). Affection mediates the impact of alexithymia on relationships. Personality & Individual Differences, 50(4), 451-456.

Khaleque, A. (2013). Perceived parental warmth, and children's psychological adjustment, and personality dispositions: A meta-analysis. Journal Of Child & Family Studies, 22(2), 297-306.

Lloyd, J. B. (2012). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and mainstream psychology: analysis and evaluation of an unresolved hostility. Journal Of Beliefs & Values: Studies In Religion & Education, 33(1), 23-34.

Mittal, R., Russell, B. S., Britner, P. A., Peake, P. K. (2013). Delay of gratification in two- and three-year-olds: Associations with attachment, personality, and temperament. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 22(4), 479-489.

Rosswurm, A. R., Pierson, B. R., & Woodward, L. E. (2007). The relationship between mbti personality types and attachment styles of adults. Psychology Journal, 4(3), 109-127.

Serino A., Giovagnoli G., Làdavas E. (2009). I feel what you feel if you are similar to me. Plos ONE, 4(3):1-7.

Schaefer, M., Heinze, H., & Rotte, M. (2012). Touch and personality: Extraversion predicts somatosensory brain response. Neuroimage, 62(1), 432-438.

Appendix A

Myers-Briggs Personality Type
Please indicate which of the following apply to your Myers-Briggs personality type.

* 1. Did you score an I or an E on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test?

I - Introvert

E - Extrovert

* 2. Did you score an N or an S on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test?

N - Intuitive

S - Sensing

* 3. Did you score a T or an F on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test?

T - Thinking

F - Feeling

* 4. Did you score a J or a P on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test?

J - Judging

P - Perceiving

 

Acceptance of Physical Touch
Please indicate on the scale your level of comfort.

* 5. If a close friend physically touched you, how accepting would you be?

1. Not accepting at all          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Very accepting

* 6. If a significant other physically touched you, how accepting would you be?

1. Not accepting at all          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Very accepting

* 7. If a family member physically touched you, how accepting would you be?

1. Not accepting at all          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Very accepting

* 8. If a stranger (or someone you just met) physically touched you, how accepting would you be?

1. Not accepting at all          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Very accepting

Willingness to Instigate Physical Touch
Please indicate on the scale your willingness to instigate physical touch.

* 9. Would you initiate physical touch with a significant other?

1. Unwilling          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Willing

* 10. Would you initiate physical touch with a close friend?

1. Unwilling          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Willing

* 11. Would you initiate physical touch with a family member?

1. Unwilling          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Willing

* 12. Would you initiate physical touch with a stranger or someone you just met?

1. Unwilling          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Willing

Hypothetical Scenarios
Please indicate on the scale your level of comfort in the following hypothetical scenarios.

* 13. Imagine you are in a public place with your significant other. Your partner is feeling especially affectionate and kisses you on the mouth. This situation makes you feel:

1. Very uncomfortable          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Very comfortable

* 14. Imagine you had a bad day at work and are very upset. On your way back from work you run into a close friend of the same gender and tell him/her about your bad day. After listening, your friend gives you a hug. This situation would make you feel:

1. Very uncomfortable          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Very comfortable

* 15. Imagine you are having fun with a female friend. During the conversation she reaches over and kisses the top of your head. This situation makes you feel:

1. Very uncomfortable          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Very comfortable

* 16. Imagine you just met a person of the same age and of the opposite gender. He or she seemed friendly and the two of you had polite conversation. When leaving, he or she touched you on the arm, looked into your eyes, and said, "This was nice." This situation would make you feel:

1. Very uncomfortable          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Very comfortable

* 17. Imagine you are taking the bus. It is very crowded, so you have to stand and hold the handrail. The bus hits a bump and the person next to you bumps into your shoulder. This situation would make you feel:

1. Very uncomfortable          2.          3. Neutral         4.         5. Very comfortable

Demographics
Please fill out the following.

* 18. What is your gender?

Male

Female

* 19. What is your age?

* 20. What is your sexual orientation?

Heterosexual

Bisexual

Homosexual

* 21. What is your nationality?

* 22. Which best describes your relationship status?


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