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How Long do Hugs Last?

Researchers timed hundreds of post-competition hugs by competitors at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and found that the average hug lasts three seconds. Apparently, this isn't the only human action that follows the three-second rule — babies tend to babble in three-second bursts, and the average goodbye wave also lasts three seconds.

More facts about the "three-second rule":

  • Researchers speculate that the reason that so many basic human gestures last three seconds is because that's how far a human's sense of "nowness" lasts — possibly also explaining people's tendency to follow the "three-second rule" about dropped food.

  • Studies dating to 1911 have documented the three-second rule. Even physiological actions, such as relaxed breathing, tend to happen in three-second intervals.

  • Humans aren't the only ones who act in three-second bursts. Animals such as giraffes, raccoons, okapis and pandas also tend to act in three-second intervals, whether they're chewing, moving around or even defecating.

Discussion Comments

By WaterHopper — On Jul 01, 2011

Hugs last as long as you want them to. It really depends on the situation you are in at the current time. For example, if someone is grieving the loss of a loved one, it would be appropriate to hug someone for a couple of minutes. If you were attending a graduation and were congratulating the graduate, it might be a quick hug.

It really just depends on your relationship with the person you are hugging and the events that are taking place.

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