A touch can be so delicate, yet so powerful. From a firm handshake to a comforting embrace, touch plays a vital role in our lives. But is the softness of someone else’s touch all in our heads? According to recent research, that may just be the case.

Participants in the study consistently rated the skin of another person softer than their own, regardless of whether it truly was. Researchers found that slow, gentle strokes evoked this “softness illusion” because of it’s association with intimacy and triggers the portion of our brains that controls reward and pleasure. But though this may all be in our head, the study further proves that touch is essential in forming bonds with others.

READ MORE: The Beautiful Benefits of Touch