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The Silent High Five

Added: 28-12-2015

Latin Name: Greetus Touchus Palmslapae

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High Five Greeting

The Silent High Five

The Silent High Five is a greeting given by physical contact; open palm of greeter to open palm of greeted, struck quickly. It often lacks verbal preemption (but may be followed-up with verbal reinforcement. “Rock on” and “way to go” are common accompaniments.

Ostensibly, we can thank jazz musicians for their invention of the five, or “giving skin“. As King (1968) wrote of the five, it is “… the jive set’s seal of approval, the jazz equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor” (p. 207). So hey, let’s dig a bit.

Touch-being touched by another, or touching another-is an immensely important to human development. Foundational scientific research was conduced in the 1920s. In one work, scientists confined a group of post-operative rat babies to a cup, whilst they provided others with maternal contact. Food and sunlight were kept equal. The experimenters wondered: which rats would recover from their operation? So, what happened? The rats attended by mom did AOK… and ostensibly participated in researchers’ future experiments. What about the rats raised in a cup? Their lives concluded er… decisively.

Despite this (and other) research, humans have interpreted the science variously. In 1928, John B. Watson, a popular (yet radical) psychologist, wrote this choice piece in his seminal parenting book Psychological Care of Infant and Child :

“If you expected a dog to grow up and be useful as a watch-dog… or for anything except a lapdog, you wouldn’t dare treat it the way you treat your child. When I hear a mother say: ‘Bless its little heart’ when it falls down, or stubs its toe… I usually have to go for a little walk to let off steam. Can’t the mother train herself when something happens to the child to look at its hurt without saying anything…?” (p. 74)

And, oh my! Watson wrote this choice piece a few paragraphs later:

“… If you haven’t a nurse and cannot leave the child, put it out in the back-yard a large part of the day. Build a fence around the yard so that you are sure no harm can come to it. Do this from the time it is born… no child should get commendation and notice and petting every time it does something it ought to be doing anyway” (p. 75-76).

Actually, the entire chapter book is worth a read, for it shows how child-rearing philosophies differ across time, place and culture. Watson’s ideas are not entirely without merit. For example, he describes the importance of giving kids materials to make toys, rather than the toys themselves. Interesting! Ultimately, who’s to say which child-rearing approach is best?

Nonetheless, the results of science tell us that touch, and physical interaction, helps development and human experience (Ardiel et al., 2010).  Thus, the High Five greeting is not simply a greeting. It’s a congratulations, a celebration and a fantastic way to help colleagues, friends and others feel wanted, needed and comforted.

Go give someone a #HighFiveGreet today!

King, L.L. (1968). … and Other Dirty Stories. World Publishing Company

Ardiel, E. L., & Rankin, C. H. (2010). The importance of touch in development. Paediatrics & Child Health, 15(3), 153–156. Online here.

Watson, J. B. (1928). Psychological care of infant and child. Online here