Grooming is a practice that dates back to our primate ancestors. It served multiple purposes, including cleaning out ticks and parasites and establishing positions in the group hierarchy. Grooming helps to ease tensions in ape society, making individuals more willing to cooperate. In chimpanzee society, when two individuals are fighting, one member of the group may defuse the tension by grooming one of them and then the other.

The act of Grooming releases endorphins, which trigger a relaxing feeling in the brain, reducing aggressive behavior and even bringing on sleep. The groomer themselves may also share this endorphin rush. Humans became less reliant on grooming than other animals due to our lack of hair. To compensate, we engage in activities that result in a similar endorphin rush, such as gossiping. These haven’t entirely usurped our love for physical touch, with some scientists even calling the skin a ‘social organ.’ Depending on our relationships, touch can both soothe and repulse us. It remains vital in how we care for and communicate with each other.

Artist: Ettore Mazza

A person braiding another person's hair

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Credit: Ettore Mazza and Open Past

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