©Arlene R. Taylor PhD

A kinesthetic sensory preference means that what the individual takes in through touch, taste, smell, muscle position, and temperature perception typically registers most quickly and intensely in the brain. It gets their attention more quickly and may even require less energy to decode the data.

Some commonly displayed characteristics of kinesthetics follow, including characteristics that may be observed in children based on their individual sensory preference. Use these as general guidelines for discussion, remembering that each brain is as different as the person’s thumbprint and you may be more aware of one system than another at any given moment depending on the environment in which you find yourself.

altCharacteristics of Individuals with a Kinesthetic Preference (taste, touch, smell, position)

  • Use kinesthetic words and metaphors (e.g., that doesn’t fit or feel right, I’ve got a gut feeling, I’m trying to get in touch with that idea, let’s hammer out a plan, spare me from the jolting headlines!)
  • Have a low-pitched voice
  • Tend to breathe deeply and speak slowly (e.g., words may flow out like thick cream)
  • Often prefer to work with their hands
  • React faster and/or more intensely to kinesthetic stimuli
  • The brain responds more quickly and intensely to kinesthetic cues (e.g., touch, taste, odors)
  • While they relate to the world through touch, taste, smell, position/posture, and sensitivity to the environment (e.g., temperature, humidity, drafts of air, feel of clothing, comfort of furniture) they are, at the same time, often extremely discriminating about who touches them and/or very sensitive to the type of touch (e.g., quickly discern the difference between sexual and nonsexual touch)

Kinesthetic Children Summary

  • Like pets that are comfortable to touch and may be very sensitive/intuitive with animals
  • Prefer toys that feel good (e.g., smooth, soft, interesting texture)
  • Food must feel right (e.g., not too hot or cold, not scratchy, not slimy)
  • May be afraid of any type of pain, physical irritation, or discomfort
  • The way clothing feels may be important (e.g., feeling against skin, restrictive, sweaty)
  • Often sensitive to the way things feel in the environment (e.g., temperature, drafts of wind, furniture)
  • Tend to quickly feel nurtured/loved by gentle, affirming touch and environments that feel comfortable
  • May be bruised by lack of touch or harsh touch (e.g., spanked, slapped, kicked, jerked, hair pulled, held down and tickled
  • • Often learn most quickly by actually touching and doing, hands-on style

Every human being is believed to have skin-hunger needs. Studies of infants in orphanages showed that without sufficient touch, the babies died. When elderly volunteers were recruited to hold infants on the average of 15 minutes per day, the babies stopped dying. All children need nonsexual touch affirmation. So do all adults.

Since many live in somewhat of a “no-touch” society where there are cultural prohibitions against touching, many individuals experience difficulty getting their skin-hunger needs met adequately, especially males. Consequently, many are touch-deprived. This can be an even larger problem for those with a kinesthetic preference.

Some are fortunate to have a partner and/or friends with whom they can exchange touch. Others have pets that can be handled, stroked, and cuddled. Still others attempt to meet their skin-hunger needs through sexual activity. This can result in the individual putting a great deal of pressure on a partner for “sex” in an attempt to get skin-hunger needs met. Sexual activity is primarily about self-gratification and doesn’t fulfill the need for nonsexual, physical touch. Children who do not get their touch needs met appropriately may fail to thrive, or to learn, may be more vulnerable to touch (e.g., sexual abuse, physical abuse), or may be at higher risk for unwed pregnancies.

It can be critically important to take positive steps toward obtaining non-sexual physical-touch affirmation, especially if kinesthetic is your first or second preference. Teach your friends to touch you non-sexually, spend time with a pet that likes to be touched (e.g., curls up in your lap and soaks in petting). If you live or work with children, find ways to affirm them kinesthetically through appropriate non-sexual touch. If you want a kinesthetic to pay attention to what you are saying, try placing your hand gently on his/her arm or shoulder (if you have a relationship that permits this). The touch registers kinesthetically in the brain and allows the individual to focus more easily on receiving the information through the auditory or visual sensory system.

NOTE: Individuals with a kinesthetic preference can sometimes pay attention to auditory or visual stimuli (e.g., seminar setting) much more easily if they can hold something kinesthetically pleasing in their hand (e.g., a soft object or toy, squeezie, stress-reducer ball). This is particularly true of the male brain and often true for some female brains (e.g., kinesthetic, extroverted). That’s one reason I encourage participants to bring handwork to seminars I present if they know they listen better when doing something with their hands.