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BLINDFOLDED LOVERS CAN TELL PARTNERS THROUGH TOUCH

How well do lovers know each other? A new study suggests that if blindfolded, they might recognize each other just by feeling their partners' foreheads.

And if he's a man, touching his hand might do.Seventy-two blindfolded people in the study tried to distinguish their romantic partner from two decoys of similar age, weight and height.

The blindfolded participants stroked the back of each person's right hand in one test, and the forehead in another. Each time, they were asked to pick out the lover.

Random guessing would be right 33 percent of the time. But the blindfolded people were correct 58 percent of the time in the forehead test, and women identified their man's hand 69 percent of the time.

"I think that in real life we could probably do a whole lot better," said researcher Marsha Kaitz. The stress of being in a laboratory experiment and the carefully matched decoys probably hindered the real-world ability of recognition by touch, she said.

"I think that probably everyone can do it," Kaitz, a psychologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said in a telephone interview. Touch recognition is "just a skill that has not been tapped before," she said.

Men did not show evidence of recognizing their partner's hands. Kaitz said women probably did better because the hair on men's hands made them more distinctive.

Her study will be published later this year in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, said the finding made sense to her. Touch is an important sense in intimate contact, she said.

The experiment involved 36 heterosexual couples in their 20s who had been in their relationship for an average of two years. Sixteen of the couples were married, and a total of 25 were living together.

Kaitz said that since the couples were relatively new in their relationship, it is possible that the touch recognition they showed is present only in the "getting to know you" phase of a relationship. She is now studying long-married couples, she said.

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Findings:

-58 percent of blindfolded people identified their romantic partners by feeling the forehead.

-Women identified their man's hand 69 percent of the time.