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Are Fist Bumps and High Fives Linked to Success?

Fist bumps and high fives aren't just cool gestures—they're symbols of camaraderie and success. Studies suggest that these simple acts can boost team spirit and performance. They're a non-verbal way of saying "we're in this together," fostering a winning mindset. Want to know how these gestures can impact your team's success? Join us as we examine the power of touch in teamwork.

It takes touch to be a good shooter in basketball, and it can also help turn a team into winners. It's not the same kind of touch, though. Rather than finesse, the touch that appears to be consistent among successful NBA teams is boisterous physicality such as high fives, back slaps, and fist bumps. It might look like a bunch of very big men just being playful, but according to research by the University of California, San Francisco, the more touchy-feely a team is, the more likely they are to win.

"It looks like at least in these really specific team settings, touch communicates cooperation and trust between people," said study co-author Michael Kraus. "So in our study, touching is highly correlated with cooperative behaviors." For their research, the researchers counted the number of intentional friendly contacts among NBA players on all 30 teams in the 2008-09 season. The more successful teams were more gregarious, although the researchers couldn't say with certainty whether success led to touching or touching led to success.

A touch more:

  • Research has shown that being touched can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and even ease depression and anxiety.

  • Showing physical closeness has an evolutionary basis, as our ancestors learned that a close-knit group was more likely to survive.

  • Touching a pet – petting a cat or patting a dog – can release the feel-good hormone oxytocin in the brain.

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    • An analysis of NBA teams found a clear link between the teammates' displays of physical contact, such as high fives and fist bumps, and their on-court success.
      An analysis of NBA teams found a clear link between the teammates' displays of physical contact, such as high fives and fist bumps, and their on-court success.