Interrupted Embraces Show Shift in Lateralization During Interaction in a Natural Setting


  • Nico Henschel Comenius University Bratislava


Who Gives A Hug? And what are the effects of “Embraces”, which refers to an interaction that goes beyond a mere gesture of display, when humans make contact, hold each other in arms? This talk considers “the act of humans embracing” as a research paradigm for affect itself while outlining a proposal for an empirical study design.

The aim of the empirical design lies in testing emotional responses in natural settings by recording couples using mobile EEG technology during platonic, and semi-controlled intimate interactions—embracing and emotional speech. Given that about 90% of the human population is right-handed, how are handedness, side preferences during embracing, and hemispheric asymmetry related to affective processing? [1] Participants will be engaged in different conditions: emotional embracing of another or a huggable object versus neutral non-contact and interrupted interactions. [2] Mobile EEG captures alpha and beta power asymmetries across frontal and parieto-occipital electrode sites throughout, testing live for lateralization (right/left-hemispheric dominance) or co-activations during valence-specific processing. [3]

Analysis is expected to reveal a higher alpha and beta power asymmetry over frontal regions during embracing and speech. Conversely, lower alpha power asymmetry in parieto-occipital regions during emotional interactions, suggesting right-hemispheric activation. The interruption of the interaction is expected to result in a shift of intra-hemispheric dominance.

Recording brain activity during natural emotional interactions, such as the act of humans embracing directly or with a huggable object provides a richer understanding of emotional processing beyond laboratory settings. These findings contribute to advancing the understanding of hemispheric specialization and valence-specific processing in human-human and human-robot interaction.


[1] J. Packheiser et al., “Asymmetries in social touch-motor and emotional biases on lateral preferences in embracing, cradling and kissing,” Laterality, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 325–348, 2020, doi: 10.1080/1357650X.2019.1690496.

[2] E. Nunez et al., “Remote Communication via Huggable Interfaces - Behavior Synchronization and Social Presence,” CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts, Apr. 2022, doi:

[3] S. Ocklenburg et al., “Social touch in the age of computational ethology: Embracing as a multidimensional and complex behaviour,” Current Psychology, vol. 42, no. 22, pp. 18539–18548, Mar. 2022, doi: