Social interactions are influenced by the perception of others as similar or dissimilar to the self. Such judgements could depend on physical and semantic characteristics, such as membership in an ethnic or political group. In the present study we tested whether social representations of the self and of others could affect the perception of touch. To this aim, we assessed tactile perception on the face when subjects observed a face being touched by fingers. In different conditions we manipulated the identity of the shown face. In a first experiment, Caucasian and Maghrebian participants viewed a face belonging either to their own or to a different ethnic group; in a second experiment, Liberal and Conservative politically active participants viewed faces of politicians belonging to their own or to the opposite political party. The results showed that viewing a touched face most strongly enhanced the perception of touch on the observer's face when the observed face belonged to his/her own ethnic or political group
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