• Science
  • Research

This Map Shows Where People Do and Don’t Like to Be Touched

2 minute read

Ever wonder whether you should shake someone’s hand or hug them? Oxford University now has the answer.

The British university, in conjunction with Finland’s Aalto University, conducted the largest study on physical contact ever and found that—surprise!—people don’t really want to be touched by strangers anywhere except their hands. But they did find that women are more comfortable with physical contact than men.

The researchers polled of over 1300 men and women in five different countries (Britain, Finland, France, Italy and Russia) about where they felt comfortable being touched by partners, friends of the same and opposite sex, family members and strangers. Their responses were distilled into a map that shows which areas are (literally) up for grabs and which are off limits. The results were published in journal PNAS this week.

The graphic shows the obvious: genitals are a taboo zones, people of both genders are more comfortable with physical contact with their mothers than their fathers. But the study also found odd tidbits: Italians are more comfortable being touched than Russians, for instance. Finns proved the most comfortable with contact and Brits the least.

The research also determined that when it came to touching, nominal relationships (like whether someone was a blood relative) mattered more than the frequency with which people encountered one another. “It is the relationship rather than familiarity that matters. A friend we haven’t seen for some time will still be able to touch areas where an acquaintance we see every day would not,” Oxford University’s Professor Dunbar explains on Oxford’s website.

5 Horrible Habits You Need to Stop Right Now

Do Not Email First Thing in the Morning or Last Thing at Night “The former scrambles your priorities and all your plans for the day and the latter just gives you insomnia,” says Ferriss, who insists “email can wait until 10am” or after you check off at least one substantive to-do list item.Chris Pecoraro—Getty Images
Do Not Agree to Meetings or Calls With No Clear Agenda or End Time “If the desired outcome is defined clearly… and there’s an agenda listing topics–questions to cover–no meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes,” claims Ferriss, so “request them in advance so you can ‘best prepare and make good use of our time together.'”Sam Edwards—Getty Images/Caiaimage
Do Not Check Email Constantly Batch it and check it only periodically at set times (Ferriss goes for twice a day). Your inbox is analogous to a cocaine pellet dispenser, says Ferriss. Don’t be an addict. Tools like strategic use of the auto responder and Boomerang can help.Jetta Productions—Getty Images
Do Not Carry a Digital Leash 24/7 At least one day a week leave you smartphone somewhere where you can’t get easy access to it. If you’re gasping, you’re probably the type of person that most needs to do kick this particular habit.by nacoki ( MEDIA ARC )—Getty Images/Flickr RF
Do Not Let People Ramble Sounds harsh, but it’s necessary, Ferriss believes. “Small talk takes up big time,” he says, so when people start to tell you about their weekends, cut them off politely with something like “I’m in the middle of something, but what’s up?” But be aware, not everyone agrees with this one (and certainly not in every situation), and you may want to pay particularly close attention to norms around chit chat when traveling internationally.Reza Estakhrian—Getty Images

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com