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Hugging is a tradition at American Mensa gatherings, said to have originated in the late 1970s when David Mann claimed a then-nonexistent "old Mensa tradition" of people hugging one another when they meet, in order to help a shy member break the ice at a gathering. This led ultimately to hugging contests at gatherings, as well as the use of hugging dots to specify one's preference regarding getting hugged.

Some gatherings have hugging contests, with secret judges who are grading the hugs of others for the purpose of giving awards at the end of the gathering.

Alan Baltis attempted to set a Guinness world record for the most hugs within an hour at the 2008 Annual Gathering of American Mensa in Denver, but the record was exceeded by somebody else before his own claim could be verified.