A hug is a near universal form of physical intimacy, in which two people put their arms around the neck, back, or waist of one another and hold each other closely. If more than two persons are involved, this is informally referred to as a group hug.
A hug, sometimes in association with a kiss, is a form of nonverbal communication. Depending on culture, context and relationship, a hug can indicate familiarity, love, affection, friendship or sympathy. A hug can be given as an indication of support, comfort, and consolation, particularly where words are insufficient. A hug is usually a demonstration of affection and emotional warmth, sometimes arising out of joy or happiness at meeting someone or seeing someone that they have not seen in a long time. A non-reciprocal hug may demonstrate a problem in the relationship. A hug can range from a brief one-second squeeze, with the arms not fully around the partner, to an extended holding. The length of a hug in any situation is socially and culturally determined. In the case of lovers, and occasionally others, the hips may also be pressed together.
Unlike some other types of physical contact, a hug can be practiced publicly and privately without stigma in many countries, religions and cultures, within families, and also across age and gender lines, but is generally an indication that people are familiar with each other. Moving from a handshake (or touch-free) relationship to a hug relationship is a sign of a new friendship.
An unexpected hug can be regarded as an invasion of a person's personal space, but if it is reciprocated it is an indication that it is welcome. Also, a person, especially a child, may caress and hug a doll or stuffed animal. Young children will also hug their parents when they feel threatened by an unfamiliar person, although this may be regarded as clinging onto rather than hugging, since it demonstrates a need for protection rather than affection.
While less common, hugs may be undertaken as part of a ritual or social act in certain social groups. It is a custom in Latin cultures such as France, Spain and Latin America for male friends to hug (as well as slap each other on the back) in a joyous greeting. A similar hug, usually accompanied by a kiss on the cheek, is also becoming a custom among Western women at meeting or parting. In May 2009, The New York Times reported that "the hug has become the favorite social greeting when teenagers meet or part these days" in the United States. A number of schools in the United States have issued bans on hugs, which in some cases have resulted in student-led protests against these bans. In the Roman Catholic rite of the Holy Mass a hug may be substituted for a kiss or handshake during the kiss of peace ritual. Some cultures do not embrace hugging as a sign of affection or love, such as the Himba in Namibia.
Hugging in non-humans
Hugging is particular to human beings, as there are not many species of animals that engage in different exchanges of warmth.
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Cuddling is a related form of physical intimacy in which two people hold one another with each person's arms wrapped around the other's body. Similar to hugging, cuddling is a more affectionate and intimate embrace, normally done for a longer period of time (usually lasting from a few minutes to several hours). In contrast to hugging, which can often be a nonverbal greeting or parting tradition, cuddling is usually shared between two people who are lying down together or sitting somewhere in an intimate manner. Like hugging, cuddling makes the body release oxytocin. This has a variety of effects.
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- Kathleen Keating (1994). The Hug Therapy Book. Hazelden PES. ISBN 1-56838-094-1.
- Kershaw, Sarah (2009-05-27). "For Teenagers, Hello Means 'How About a Hug?'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-29.[dead link]
- Grant, Denise (2010-04-15). "Students pan hugging ban".
- "School Bans Hugs Over 2 Seconds". 2008-03-02.
- "How hugs can aid women's hearts". BBC News. August 8, 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
- Patricia McConnell (June 4, 2002), The Other End of the Leash (1st ed.), Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0-345-44679-4