Wellcome Collection and BBC Radio 4 to explore the nation’s attitudes towards touch

A new survey commissioned by Wellcome Collection to explore people’s attitudes towards the physical experience of touch launches today on BBC Radio 4. 

The Touch Test is an online questionnaire developed by researchers in the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. It creates a unique opportunity to understand the similarities and differences in our experiences of touch, with the aim of increasing our understanding of its role in health and wellbeing. 

The Touch Test will be launched in a special programme, hosted by All in the Mind presenter Claudia Hammond, starting at 9am today on BBC Radio 4, with the results set to be explored in a new series, The Anatomy of Touch, in the autumn. It’s the latest subject to be explored in the ongoing partnership between Radio 4 and Wellcome Collection, following the studies into attitudes towards rest and loneliness which took place in 2016 and 2018 respectively. 

The new study will explore issues such as:

  • How our attitudes towards touch and the nature of our relationships with others vary by age, gender, nationality.
  • How the interpersonal touch we experience relates to our health and wellbeing.
  • How touch might relate to empathy, loneliness or the size of our social networks.
  • Which materials or textures we like or hate to touch.
  • When we consider touch from others to be appropriate or inappropriate.
  • Attitudes towards touch during a doctor’s consultation or in therapy.
  • Whether contemporary society allows us to get enough touch or leaves us wanting more. 

The public is invited to take part in the survey and respond to a range of questions linked to these topics. It takes between 15 and 40 minutes to complete depending on choices made, and is available at touchtest.org.  

Claudia Hammond, presenter of The Touch Test on BBC Radio 4, says, “Over 70,000 people contributed to our previous studies into rest and loneliness, and I’m hoping for a similarly positive response to this unique exploration of attitudes towards touch. 

“Like rest and loneliness, touch is something that affects us all – and is more complex than you might think. The Touch Test gives people the opportunity to contribute to large-scale, pioneering research into the topic, which can only be done through this kind of collaboration between the BBC and Wellcome. I’m really looking forward to analysing the results of the study in a series of programmes on Radio 4 later this year.”

The survey has been developed by academics at Goldsmiths, University of London, led by Professor Michael Banissy in collaboration with Professor Alice Gregory (Goldsmiths) and Professor Aikaterini Fotopoulou (University College London), and commissioned by Wellcome Collection. 

“The Touch Test is an exciting opportunity to investigate with a large and diverse group of people. It will generate an exciting new dataset that will enable us to gain new insights into the role of touch today.” 

Accompanying the research, Wellcome Collection is developing two art commissions exploring touch and the findings of the survey, with the arts organisations 20 Stories High in Liverpool and Revoluton Arts and Sudha Bhuchar in Luton, as part of Wellcome Collection’s national arts partnerships programme.  

Ana Botella, Acting Head of Public Programmes at Wellcome Collection, says, “This is the third time we have worked with BBC Radio 4 on a nationwide survey, and each time we discover something new about people’s experiences of health and wellbeing in the 21st century. I am looking forward to seeing what this research reveals about touch, especially through the work of our arts partners who will be researching touch and using the findings of the test in their own new and exciting ways.”

Using The Touch Test as a starting point, 20 Stories High will produce ‘Touchy’, a gig theatre performance developed with young adults across Liverpool, which will tour the UK in autumn 2020.  Revoluton will work with writer and performer Sudha Bhuchar to explore touch with communities around Bury Park in Luton.  

The Touch Test is the third in a series of surveys carried out in partnership between Wellcome Collection and BBC Radio 4. The results will be explored in a series called The Anatomy of Touch on BBC Radio 4 in autumn 2020.

For press information and interview requests please contact

Juan SanchezComms Lead, Wellcome Collection
Stephen InnesPublicist, BBC Radio 4 & Radio 4 Extra

Notes to editors  

About Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Collection is the free museum and library for the incurably curious. Inspired by the medical objects collected by Henry Wellcome, it connects science, medicine, life and art. Through its exhibitions, live programming, and digital and publishing activity, it makes thought provoking content which aims to challenge how we think and feel about health. 

Wellcome Collection is part of Wellcome, which exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive. We support researchers, we take on big health challenges, we campaign for better science, and we help everyone get involved with science and health research. We are a politically and financially independent foundation.

About BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a station for anyone interested in intelligent speech. Its schedule is packed with the most insightful journalism, the wittiest comedy, the most fascinating features and the most compelling drama and readings anywhere in UK radio. 

About Goldsmiths,University of London
Founded in 1891, Goldsmiths, University of London is an institution with a rich academic heritage, known for its creative approach. Its 9,000 students are based on campus in the heart of south east London’s New Cross community, studying undergraduate, postgraduate, teacher training and return-to-study courses in the arts, humanities, social sciences, law, cultural studies, computing and entrepreneurial business and management. Goldsmiths research shapes the future, changes lives, and is at the forefront of creative practice, with almost three-quarters of research rated internationally excellent or world-leading by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

About 20 Stories High
20 Stories High is an award-winning theatre company based in Liverpool. It creates work with and for young people from culturally diverse and working-class communities.

Founded in 2006, 20 Stories High has established itself as one of the leading young people’s theatre companies nationally, and has won a series of prestigious awards and commissions. 20 Stories High tours to theatres, schools venues and community spaces and run a range of participatory projects. 

About Revoluton Arts and Sudha Bhuchar
Revoluton Arts is a people-powered arts project based in Luton. It is one of 33 Creative People and Places (CPP) programmes funded through Arts Council England with the aim of enabling more people to engage with and be inspired by arts and culture. Revoluton puts ‘Stories of Luton’ at the heart of its narrative, working on the ethos that everyone has a story to tell and to share.

Sudha Bhuchar is an award-winning actor/playwright and artistic director of Bhuchar Boulevard. She is co-founder of Tamasha Theatre Company, where she served as co-artistic director for 26 years. Sudha also works as a dramaturg and educator.