July 07, 2010
Subconscious Influence Of Tactile Experiences

Some Harvard and MIT researchers found that the type of object a person holds influences their judgment about resumes, stories, and other information they are asked to evaluate.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments probing how objects' weight, texture, and hardness can unconsciously influence judgments about unrelated events and situations:

  • To test the effects of weight, metaphorically associated with seriousness and importance, subjects used either light or heavy clipboards while evaluating resumes. They judged candidates whose resumes were seen on a heavy clipboard as better qualified and more serious about the position, and rated their own accuracy at the task as more important.
  • An experiment testing texture's effects had participants arrange rough or smooth puzzle pieces before hearing a story about a social interaction. Those who worked with the rough puzzle were likelier to describe the interaction in the story as uncoordinated and harsh.
  • In a test of hardness, subjects handled either a soft blanket or a hard wooden block before being told an ambiguous story about a workplace interaction between a supervisor and an employee. Those who touched the block judged the employee as more rigid and strict.
  • A second hardness experiment showed that even passive touch can shape interactions, as subjects seated in hard or soft chairs engaged in mock haggling over the price of a new car. Subjects in hard chairs were less flexible, showing less movement between successive offers. They also judged their adversary in the negotiations as more stable and less emotional.

Nocera and his colleagues say these experiments suggest that information acquired through touch exerts broad, if generally imperceptible, influence over cognition. They propose that encounters with objects can elicit a "haptic mindset," triggering application of associated concepts even to unrelated people and situations.

We believe we have more conscious control of our opinions and decisions than we really do. We are regularly doing things for reasons unknown to us. The human mind is a very flawed instrument for reasoning.

Update: If you get too worked up by tactile sensations you could always get botox treatment in order to dampen your emotions. If you can't smile or frown you can't feel all that happy or sad.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 July 07 09:38 PM  Brain Cognitive Flaws


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