Hugging was effectively banned in Britain during Covid restrictions, with the country reduced to bumping elbows to show affection.
In the new study, volunteers were asked to rate the hugs they received from friends for both pleasure and arousal.
The results showed one-second hugs did little to increase either, but five- and 10-second hugs had a large impact, although this had generally worn off three minutes later in follow-up interviews.
The team of psychologists, which also included researchers from Birkbeck, University of London and the University of Bristol, found that the waist-neck combo was more common among female-to-female and male-to-female hugs.
They noted that a height difference between each person made little or no difference to the type of hug or the experience, based on self-reported feedback taken immediately, three minutes or six minutes after the embrace.
They added: “The criss-cross (waist-high) hug has been argued to be more egalitarian and other hugging forms. Based on this argument, it seems likely that male-male (hugs) express recognition of equality when hugging.”
The team said that further studies were needed to find out when a hug became “too long”.