Control Touch

Communicative Implication of Control Touch

Control touches direct the behavior, attitude, or feeling state of another. Some control touches focus on persuading or gaining compliance from others.

Yarbrough and Jones gave the example of a boss touching an employee on the shoulder and saying, “Could you get this done by 5 o’clock?” In this case, the touch to the shoulder communicates that the boss really wants the job done. Such touch may also be persuasive (Segrin, 1993).

Other times control touches focus on gaining the attention of others and either shifting their perceptual focus or emphasizing a particular feeling state. For example, you might pat your companion on the shoulder and say, “Look at that!” (Jones & Yarbrough, 1985). This form of control touch appears to be fairly common among children. In Guerrero and Ebesu’s (1993) study, young children were especially likely to pat someone on the back or arm with a hand or finger to try to gain attention.