Instrumental touch is typically one-sided, task-oriented, and has little if any personal meaning. It was termed “professional-functional” by Heslin and Alper (1983) and “task-related” by Jones and Yarbrough (2985).
Instrumental touch is so called because it helps people complete necessary tasks. When a doctor examines a patient, an usher guides people to their assigned seats, a teacher helps a student hold a pen properly, or a parent puts a child in a high chair, the touch is primarily task related.
Jones and Yarbrough noted that some task-related touches are helpful but not necessary in accomplishing a task (hand-to-hand contact when a cashier returns money to a customer), but other task-related touches are necessary to accomplish the task (helping a person put on a coat).
Edwards (1981) described several specific forms of instrumental touch.
1. Informal pickup
The kind of touches that is tasks-related such as taking a pulse or feeling someone’s forehead to see if he or she has a fever. Here touch is used to gain information.
Movement-facilitation touches involve giving someone a boost or carrying someone to safety, such as a firefighter carrying a child out of a burning building.
Prompting touches involve providing manual guidance in learning. A golf pro might use manual touch to help clients with their swings. Similarly, a preschool teacher might guide children’s hands as they learn to place blocks in a shape sorter.
Finally, Edwards discussed ludic touches, which occur as part of games, such as playing patty-cake or tackling someone during a football game.
Guerrero and Ebesu (1993) found that these kinds of touches were an integral part of children’s play, with children touching one another during games such as tag and ring-around-the-rosy, as well as touching while engaging in tasks such as building a sand castle or stacking blocks.