Cover image for Touch
Field, Tiffany.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 181 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
"A Bradford book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF275 .F54 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Argues the importance of touch to children's development & to the health of adults & critiques a society that the author believes to be dangerously touch-deprived. The first sensory input in life comes from the sense of touch while a baby is still in the womb, and touch continues to be the primary means of learning about the world throughout infancy, well into childhood. Touch is critical for childrens growth, development, and health, as well as for adults physical and mental well-being. Yet American society, claims Tiffany Field, is dangerously touch-deprived. Field, a leading authority on touch and touch therapy, begins this accessible book with an overview of the sociology and anthropology of touching and the basic psychophysical properties of touch. She then reports recent research results on the value of touch therapies, such as massage therapy, for various conditions, including asthma, cancer, autism, and eating disorders. She emphasizes the need for a change in societal attitudes toward touching, particularly among those who work with children.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The "laying-on of hands" has a long tradition, and its medical efficacy has been proven by recent research. Field, a psychologist and touch therapist, was first introduced to touch therapy when her now-adult daughter was born prematurely. Field examines the sociology and anthropology of touching and the "basic psychophysical properties of touch." She observes the complex emotions surrounding touching taboos and cultural practices in the U.S. and other nations. She laments that concerns about sexual and physical abuse have resulted in teachers and other child-care professionals avoiding touching children even though, at the same time, research shows that many children suffer from a lack of caring. In later chapters, Field describes recent research on touch therapy and its benefits, ranging from stress reduction to brain development to improving the immune system. The book also offers massage therapy, including tai chi and acupuncture, to alleviate a range of ailments, including asthma, autism, cancer, and eating disorders. Plenty of photographs, charts, and graphs help readers understand the importance of touching to physical and mental well-being. --Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

As director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Field has extensively studied and documented touch. In this book-length essay on the importance of touch, she argues that while skin is the largest sense organ of the body, it is taken for granted and overlooked in terms of research; it is also our most social sense in that it usually involves another person. Field discusses different kinds of touch e.g., tickling, inappropriate touching, touch that is relaxing as well as anthropological findings. For example, various studies show that Americans are some of the least tactile people in the world. Field goes on to suggest that many of the problem behaviors we see in this country might be traced to the absence of touch, or, as she characterizes it, to "touch hunger." In her enthusiasm for her subject, she offers a few observations that strain credulity, as when she suggests that a fetus may turn out to be a good swimmer because of being stimulated in the womb by massage. Descriptions of the results of touch deprivation, the mechanics of how touch operates in the body, and various touch therapies and their benefits, especially in terms of pain reduction, are detailed. An interesting, well-written book with an extensive bibliography; recommended for public and academic libraries. Margaret Cardwell, Christian Brothers Univ., Memphis, TN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A book about touch could target many audiences--neuroscientists, psychophysicists, specialists in aids for the blind, educators, medical and alternative health practitioners. Among the recent volumes that cover the physiological, perceptual, and cognitive aspects of touch are Pain and Touch, ed. by Lawrence Kruger (CH, Jun'97), and the outstanding The Psychology of Touch, ed. by Morton Heller and William Schiff (CH, Apr'92). Field (Univ. of Michigan School of Medicine) emphasizes the therapeutic value of tactile activity, offering a highly readable tribute to the richness of the touch experience. Using her work with both pediatric and adult patients, Field reviews evidence that massage therapy causes reductions in stress, improvements in physical growth and emotional development, enhanced immune response, and alleviation of pain. The book contains both scientific studies and anecdotal reports, incorporating cultural data, comparisons of various massage therapies, and, always, a sensitive perspective on the benefits of physical contact. Joining a literature that includes Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses (1990) and Ashley Montagu's Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin (1971; 3rd ed., 1986), this volume will be instructive and thought-provoking to readers at the upper-division undergraduate level and above, and particularly enlightening to specialists in nursing, pediatrics, and the allied health professions. G. B. Rollman University of Western Ontario