Communication via warm haptic interfaces does not increase social warmth

Christian J.A.M. Willemse (Corresponding Author), Dirk K.J. Heylen, Jan B.F. van Erp

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    Affective haptic interfaces are designed to influence one’s emotional and physiological state via the sense of touch, and may be applied as communicationmedia to increase the sense of closeness. Recent research suggests that stimulation with physical warmth can enhance this interpersonal closeness: a physical-social warmth link. It is often suggested that this link may be particularly suitable for application in affective haptic interfaces, but the scientific evidence is inconclusive. In this work we investigated whether adding physical warmth to a communication medium—an interactive teddy bear —could increase social connectedness between remotely located interactants and could provide physiological comfort during stressful circumstances. Moreover, we investigated whether the warmth could best be presented to the users as a mere physical attribute of the medium or as mediated body heat; thereby manipulating the attribution of the warmth to either a non-social or social source. The results of two studies in which participants ostensibly received a message from an unknown other (Study 1, N = 65) or comforting messages from their own partner (Study 2, N = 62), and meta-analyses did not provide support for the hypotheses that warmth, purely physical or attributed to one’s partner, can positively influence one’s social and physiological state. Although future research should corroborate our findings, they indicate that the physical-social warmth link may not be as applicable in affective mediated communication as suggested.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)329-344
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal on multimodal user interfaces
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


    • UT-Hybrid-D
    • Computer mediated communication
    • Physical warmth
    • Social warmth
    • Attribution
    • Affective haptics


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