Why kiss with your eyes closed?

We all know that sensory multitasking has its limits. For example, it’s tricky to focus on a visual task and an auditory task at the same time. The possibility of observing similar effects for touch has been largely unexplored by research until now. With this study, discover why kissing with your eyes closed is more pleasurable.

Sense of touch is sometimes considered to be more “primitive” than vision or hearing (tactile information is sensed directly, while visual and auditory stimuli involve an identification process), meaning that touch should be less prone to errors of inattention than the other senses.

Psychologists from Royal Holloway (University of London) carried out a study in order to find out if touch sensitivity could be disrupted when attention was simultaneously focused on a perceptual task; and whether increasing the difficulty of the task would decrease touch sensitivity. To do so, the researchers conducted tests on 16 participants (18-36 years of age; mean = 21) who were asked – not to kiss each other - but to carry out the following dual task: identify two letters from a string of six displayed in front of them, and at the same time, indicate whether or not they perceived a short tactile stimulus from the buzzer held in their hands.

The results of this study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, show that sensory multitasking has its limits: participants were less sensitive to vibrations when the tracking task became more complex.

While the study by S. Murphy and P. Dalton doesn't specifically examine kissing, when interviewed by Medical Daily, P. Dalton indicated that research revealed that engaging in a more demanding visual task reduced participants sensitivity to tactile stimuli. Thus, decreasing visual demands (for example, by closing one’s eyes) may increase touch awareness, and that may be one of the reasons lovers close their eyes when they kiss. The research suggests that if we kiss with our eyes open, we are much less attentive to the sensations and emotions related to the touch experience.

Moreover, the same phenomenon may explain why we may not sense a pickpocket stealing our wallet. When focusing on a visual task (trying to find one's way in a new place, for example), we are less sensitive to touch.
Source: Murphy S., Dalton P. Out of Touch? Visual Load Induces Inattentional Numbness. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 14-03-2016.

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