Touch and teamwork

Successful teams touch a lot, though it’s unclear whether touching improves teamwork or teamwork encourages touching:

Michael W. Kraus led a research team that coded every bump, hug and high five in a single game played by each team in the National Basketball Association early last season.

In a paper due out this year in the journal Emotion, Mr. Kraus and his co-authors, Cassy Huang and Dr. Keltner, report that with a few exceptions, good teams tended to be touchier than bad ones. The most touch-bonded teams were the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, currently two of the league’s top teams; at the bottom were the mediocre Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats.

The same was true, more or less, for players. The touchiest player was Kevin Garnett, the Celtics’ star big man, followed by star forwards Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors and Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz. “Within 600 milliseconds of shooting a free throw, Garnett has reached out and touched four guys,” Dr. Keltner said.

…[E]ven after the high expectations surrounding the more talented teams were taken into account, the correlation persisted. Players who made contact with teammates most consistently and longest tended to rate highest on measures of performance, and the teams with those players seemed to get the most out of their talent.

This also applies to the most important team you’ll ever belong to, your marriage:

Christopher Oveis of Harvard conducted five-minute interviews with 69 couples, prompting each pair to discuss difficult periods in their relationship.

The investigators scored the frequency and length of touching that each couple, seated side by side, engaged in…. “[I]t looks so far like the couples who touch more are reporting more satisfaction in the relationship,” he said.

Posted by James on Wednesday, February 24, 2010