Providing support is easier done than said: Support providers' perceptions of touch and verbal support provision requests

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although researchers strive to optimize support exchanges, support providers' experiences have largely been overlooked. To identify optimal support from the perspective of the support provider, the current research compared support providers' perceptions of touch and verbal support provision. In Experiment 1, participants were less stressed when they imagined their spouses requesting touch support (versus verbal support). This effect was explained by support providers' perceptions that touch support is less difficult and less likely to produce unintended negative consequences than verbal support and their greater self-efficacy to provide touch support. In Experiment 2, participants who imagined providing touch support (versus verbal or no support) in response to their partner's request anticipated less stress and greater relationship quality while providing support. Greater anticipated security and perceptions that touch support is less difficult and less likely to produce negative consequences explained these effects. Experiment 3 compared requests for touch support, general verbal support, and specific verbal support to test whether the benefits of touch support are explained by specificity. Participants viewed touch support as less difficult to provide and felt particularly special and secure when imagining providing touch support, which indirectly contributed to greater motivation to provide support, less anticipated stress, and greater anticipated relationship quality. Despite support provision deficits among insecurely attached participants, findings were consistent across attachment orientation. This research highlights support providers' experiences and adds to the literature demonstrating benefits of interpersonal touch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104168
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume96
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Attachment
  • Caregiving
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Social support
  • Touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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