Want Someone to Take a Decision Seriously? Hand Them Something Heavy

By Andrew Moseman | June 25, 2010 9:28 am

fingerprintTouch comes first. It’s the first way that people interact with the world, MIT’s Josh Ackerman says, and touch can change the way you feel about the world or engage with it.

Ackerman and colleagues published a study in Science this week further uncovering the ways that what we touch influences what we think. In a series of experiments, his team demonstrated numerous examples of the tactile altering the mental, like people negotiating more stubbornly when sitting in hard, uncomfortable chairs, or taking decisions more seriously when holding a weighty object like a clipboard.

The idea, then, is that due to the strong connection between our senses and our thoughts, touching a surface can trigger feelings related to the metaphorical value we assign to it. Or, more simply, the feeling of weight makes us feel like a decision is more “weighty,” a harsh surface like sandpaper leads to harsh feelings toward other people, and the touch of smoothness makes us feel like things are going to smooth over.

“The tactile sensation is extremely important early in development. The idea that other associations would be built on that makes intuitive sense,” said Franklin & Marshall College psychologist Michael Anderson, who was not involved in the study. “Brain regions that may initially have been dedicated to one particular task, turn out to contribute to multiple tasks” [Wired.com].

For more on this, check out Ed Yong’s in-depth post at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Related Content:
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Heavy, Rough, and Hard: How Things We Touch Affect Our Judgment And Decisions
80beats: In a Sensory Hack, What You Touch Affects What You See
80beats: Fingerprints Are Tuned to Amplify Vibrations and Send Info to the Brain
80beats: Warm Hands Give People a Friendly, Generous Outlook
80beats: Hand Washing After a Decision Scrubs Away Those Lingering Doubts

Image: Science/AAAS

MORE ABOUT: brain, decisions, senses, touch
  • http://warriormindcoach.com/blog Gregg Swanson

    Great info! Especially when working with clients. I guess I should have them sit in a Lazy Boy :-)

  • bigjohn756

    Many years ago(mid 1980s) the manufacturing plant where I worked instituted a policy to avoid a common problem. Periodically, a tank inside the plant was refilled by a tanker truck. There were no level controls in the tank being filled. If the employee in charge of notifing the tanker to stop pumping got busy and failed to stop the operation then the plant would be inundated with material. This would require hours of clean-up. After a while someone had the brilliant idea to hand the employee a 4″ steel hex nut to hold in his right hand until the pumps were shut off. There were no more floods after that policy was implemented.

  • http://terrabellica.com Laurence Hartshorne

    Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.


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