Interview with the psychiatrist

After that first general research, in order to understand which feelings may be present when people hug, we interviewed the psychiatrist, Professor Júlio Machado Vaz. We wanted this interview to be opened, as we were speaking about human feelings, but some questions were prepared to give the conversation some guidance. With some concerns raised by the articles already pointed out, some questions were drawn for the interview with Professor Júlio Machado Vaz:

  • What can a hug mean? What are the feelings that may be in the origin of a hug?
  • Can these meanings have a socio-cultural influence?
  • Does the physical behavior of a hug vary depending on the different feelings that are on the basis for that hug?
  • Can this behavior be unilateral? Per example, a love hug or a longing hug only exists when two people have the same feeling?
  • Are there physical changes in the behavior of a hug depending on individual factors such as sex or age?
  • Is there variation in the physical behavior in every hug depending on socio-cultural factors in which each person fits?
  • Which physical behaviors are different in each kind of hug? The position of the arms? The force / pressure? The time? Position of the body? Distance between two bodies (depending on whether they touch each other or not)? Others?


(image from

During the interview, some important ideas were defined:

  • Hugs have a gender social importance: they are more important in men than in women social life;
  • This may have something to do with inhibitions;
  • Age is also an important factor for social behaviors and therefore, in socializing acts like hugs or kissing;
  • Relations inside an hug may not be equal on both sides;
  • In this particular case, hugging a mannequin might be easier than hugging a person the participant doesn’t know;
  • Hugs may have lots of feelings: love, discomfort, protection, longing, to comfort the other person, happiness, a economical or social meaning, etc;
  • How each person hugs it different from person to person, depending on physical differences, like strength or height, but also depending on socio-cultural backgrounds.

According to this interview, the feelings that more often are present on hugs are love, joy or happiness, the hugs when someone is leaving (longing), the protection or comforting hug and all the social situations when a hug is not expected or “not welcome” – the discomfort hug.

Of these, we excluded the protection or comforting hug, because it is very dependent on the situation why the person needs to be comforted, so it would be very difficult to define some specific behavior for that hug. So, we defined that for this project we would work on the other 4 kinds of hugging:

  • Love;
  • Happiness/ joy;
  • Longing;
  • Discomfort;