Sensitivity to Affective Touch Depends on Adult Attachment Style
Affective touch supports affiliative bonds and social cognition. However, it remains unknown whether pre-existing models of social relating influence the perception of affective touch. Here, we present the first study (N=44) to examine how individual differences in attachment styles relate to the perception of affective touch, as well as to a different non-social modality of interoception, namely cardiac perceived accuracy. Using the gold standard assessment of adult attachment (Adult Attachment Interview), we found that insecure attachment was associated with reduced pleasantness discrimination between affective vs. non-affective, neutral touch. Acknowledging the different traditions in measuring attachment, we also used a well-validated self-report questionnaire that pertains to explicit representations of current close relationships. Using this measure, we found that higher scores on an attachment anxiety dimension (but not an attachment avoidance) were associated with reduced pleasantness discrimination between affective vs. non-affective, neutral touch. Attachment patterns (in both measures) were not related to cardiac perception accuracy. These results corroborate and extend previous literature on the affectivity of touch and its relation with affiliative bonds and social cognition. Given that attachment was not related to perceived cardiac accuracy, these findings point to the specificity of the relationship between affective touch and attachment.