How Long Can You Hug Someone Before It's Awkward?

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In hugging, as in Olympic sports, a second or two can make all the difference. If you embrace someone and hastily retreat, you're cold. But linger too long and you're downright creepy.

So it makes all the sense in the world that British psychologist Emese Nagy decided to investigate how long hugs should last by studying 128 spontaneous embraces among athletes at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. She concluded that humans, regardless of gender, hug for an average of three seconds, with an additional two seconds devoted to prepping for the hug and releasing the partner. Athletes embraced longer when their relationship was "supportive" rather than "competitive."

But this is about something bigger than hugs. Nagy submits that these three-second periods are the very "temporal building blocks" of life--the fleeting experiences we call "moments."

(h/t: Christopher Shea at The Wall Street Journal)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.