Keep in touch: The effects of imagined touch support on stress and exploration

Brett K. Jakubiak, Brooke C. Feeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Although social support buffers stress and helps individuals to embrace challenges (exploration), individuals often experience stressors when close others are not proximally available to provide support. The current research tested whether imagining supportive touch from a romantic partner promotes exploration and buffers stress better than imagining verbal support or control imagination tasks. Participants completed a 5-min imagined support manipulation prior to experiencing a physical stressor, the cold pressor pain task (Exp. 1) or social/performance stressors, the Trier Social Stress task (Exp. 2). In Experiment 1, participants who imagined touch support experienced pain-buffering benefits compared to participants who imagined verbal support, and women who imagined touch support were more likely than women in other conditions to accept the challenge of a more difficult cold pressor task. In Experiment 2, participants who imagined touch support were more buffered from the stress of the socially-evaluative tasks and viewed these tasks with more enthusiasm than participants in all other imagination conditions. Potential mechanisms and implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-67
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Close relationships
  • Exploration
  • Social support
  • Stress
  • Touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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