Monday, July 05, 2010

What we touch influences social judgements.

Here is another example of "embodied cognition"- how our physical environment can influence our thinking. In a previous post I mentioned studies showing that simply holding a warm cup of coffee prompts us to view others as emotionally warmer. And, in another post, I pointed to a study that found that holding a heavy clipboard makes us perceive social-justice issues as more important. Now Ackerman et al. ..(reviewed in ScienceNow).. expand on these studies to note that simply running your hand over sandpaper may make you view social interactions as more hostile and competitive.
Touch is both the first sense to develop and a critical means of information acquisition and environmental manipulation. Physical touch experiences may create an ontological scaffold for the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal conceptual and metaphorical knowledge, as well as a springboard for the application of this knowledge. In six experiments, holding heavy or light clipboards, solving rough or smooth puzzles, and touching hard or soft objects nonconsciously influenced impressions and decisions formed about unrelated people and situations. Among other effects, heavy objects made job candidates appear more important, rough objects made social interactions appear more difficult, and hard objects increased rigidity in negotiations. Basic tactile sensations are thus shown to influence higher social cognitive processing in dimension-specific and metaphor-specific ways.

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