How one act of chimpanzee affection can teach us all to hug more.
Have you seen these tiny chimpanzees hugging? Because OMG.
I’ll give you a minute to finish squealing. Good? OK.
Believe it or not, what’s happening in this video is more than just the cutest thing in the world…
Hugging is actually a really important part of being a chimpanzee. Chimpanzees are highly social creatures, with social interplay and physical interaction being a key part of their development.
Chimps typically hang out in groups based on family and community. The groups can range in size from 20 to 120, and a vast array of chimp politics and social behavior can be seen if you watch closely enough.
In family units and the larger community, chimpanzees use physical touch to ensure trust, express affection, and even say thank you. Like this chimp who gave Jane Goodall a long hug after being rescued and released back into the wild.
OK, how about another minute to finish crying?
We human beings have a lot in common with our primate ancestors — including the need for physical touch.
Hugs and other contact promote feelings of trust in humans as well as animals, according to this NPR interview with Matt Hertenstein, a psychologist at DePauw University.
When someone gives you a hug, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol go down, making you feel calmer, and your levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin go up, making you feel more trusting.
Oxytocin is also the hormone that helps new moms and babies bond, another key part of chimpanzee (and human) development. Mother and daughter chimpanzees have particularly strong trust-bonds, and these babies don’t leave their mothers side until around age 7.
In short, hugs are more important than you’d think.
They help our social development, they’re good for our brain chemistry, and they can ensure feelings of trust, warmth, and bonding.
We may not all be as cute as those chimps, but we might be able to make a better society if we hug more. At the very least, it’s a free, easy way to make people feel good. So put your phone down and go hug someone, like this:
PSA: Please don’t hug any random chimpanzees without their consent.