Researchers Make Touching Discovery

It’s no secret that feelings affect our decision-making, but now it appears those feelings may be physical as well as emotional.

A paper bringing together staff from Harvard, Yale and MIT, published in the latest edition of Science magazine, says six separate studies produce a common theme. In academic language, “haptically acquired information exerts a rather broad influence over cognition.” Put another way, touch can affect our viewpoints.

Among the studies:

  • People asked to review a resume were much more likely to view the candidate as serious if they held the resume on a heavier clipboard.
  • Participants in a test simulating negotiating a car price were much less flexible on price when sat in a harder chair.
  • People solving a physical puzzle and then reading a description of a conversation were more likely to view the conversation as argumentative when the puzzle pieces had been covered in sandpaper.

Psychologist and marketing professor Lawrence Williams told MIT that ” While each study is fairly persuasive on its own, taken together they form a clear picture of the importance of touch on cognition.”

The researchers believe one explanation is that when children are first learning about the world, they are much more likely to touch new objects. They then form strong links between touch and emotion.

[Picture credit: Flickr user Batega]

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