Emotions are mental and physiological states associated with psychophysiological changes, internal or external, natural or learned stimuli. internal or external, natural or learned; their function has an evolutionary value and consists in make the individual’s reaction more effective. Scientific literature tends to separate the concept of ’emotion’ (emotion, from the Latin: e- movere= to move out), referring to the physiological activation of the body, from that of ‘feeling’ (feeling, etymology: from the word sentire) used to indicate the psychological processing associated with emotion (Berridge, 2018). These two aspects of emotion are, however, intrinsically interconnected. It would be a mistake to regard physiological activation as an exclusively unconscious process and psychological processing as fully conscious. Studies performed with the measurement of physiological variables such as skin conductance show us how physiological activation can occur both consciously and unconsciously (Tooley et al, 2017), while behavioural studies show us how the implicit psychological processing of emotions can subliminally influence our decisions and preferences (Winkielman & Gogolushko, 2018). Physical contact is a primary human need. Well-known experiments in the scientific literature show us how deprivation of physical contact can have detrimental consequences on development (Beckett & Gogushko, 2018). deleterious consequences on development (Beckett et al 2006), from altered sensitivity to stress (Gonzalez et al 2011) to permanent behavioural changes (Seay et al 1964). Physical contact is a primary human need. Well-known experiments in the scientific literature show us how deprivation of physical contact can have deleterious consequences on development (Beckett et al 2006), from altered sensitivity to stress (Gonzalez et al 2011), to permanent behavioural modifications (Seay et al 1964).
Our nervous system has developed over the course of phylogeny a specific neural system for the perception of affective touch (McGlone et al 2014, Field 2019).
The perception of affective touch can be modulated by various factors beyond the physical aspects of the stimulus. Situational variables are important, such as the type of relationship with the toucher (Suvilehto et al 2015) or congruence with other stimuli in the environment (Ravaja et al 2017) and the individual’s social history, such as the presence or absence of deprivation experiences (Wilbarger et al 2010) and attachment type (Krahè et al 2018). Mediating the influence of affective touch in the individual’s development are complex and sometimes irreversible epigenetic processes (Champagne and Meaney 2007, Bystrova et al 2009, Hellstrom et al 2012, Makinodan et 2012). It therefore becomes essential to provide the individual, in the early stages of his or her maturation, with experiences of physical contact and care, such as to allow the development of a healthy and receptive emotional attunement system.