Social touch to build trust: A systematic review of technology-mediated and unmediated interactions

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleContributedpeer-review


Avatars and social robots offer new opportunities for communication and raise questions about how trust is built and maintained in hybrid social interactions. We wonder what kind of trust people build with these technologies, especially where they are no longer simply tools but rather partners in interactions and affective exchanges involving vulnerability and reciprocity. Following the PRISMA guidelines, we conducted a systematic review on how trust in humans and technology can be shaped by social touch, which is the bodily contact occurring between two or more parties that express and share affective signals. Based on the n = 15 papers that meet the inclusion criteria, the evidence on the power of social touch to facilitate trust appears limited. Especially in the realm of technology-mediated interactions, mixed and inconclusive results emerge in different social contexts. Individual differences and neurophysiological correlates that could shed light on the effects between touch and trust are rarely investigated. Our positive proposal is that future studies should overcome the divisive conceptualisation of trustor and trustee, and rather explore the phenomenon of trust as a two-person bridge built in synergy between the parties. Outlining some key directions for future research, we discuss the extant solutions and applications of technology-mediated social touch, delving into the sensory and contextual factors that make it similar but different to unmediated social touch. We propose that if social touch were to be effective in promoting trust in specific technologies, this would have important consequences on various application domains such as telecommunication, healthcare, and education.


Original languageEnglish
Article number108121
JournalComputers in human behavior
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

External IDs

Scopus 85181173132
ORCID /0000-0001-6540-5891/work/150883485