Healthy Living

Your Touch Can Influence Your Behavior

Your Touch Can Influence Your Behavior

According to a new study an individual's sense of touch can influence the way he or she views the world. According to the researchers at Yale, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, textures, shapes and weights can influence judgments and decisions. For example, people who are sitting on hard chairs without cushions are more likely to be hard on their decisions, when compared to those who are sitting on a soft chair and are ready to compromise. Another example is that interviewers who hold a heavy clip board want the applicants to consider the work seriously, when compared to those who hold a light clip board.

In this study, the researchers conducted a set of six experiments to assess how one's sense of touch affects the individual's view of others and the world in general. They studied how an object’s weight, texture, and hardness can influence the views about the different events. Experiments included mock price negotiations, puzzle playing, and getting participants sit on a hard or soft chair. Study researcher John A. Bargh, PhD, of Yale feels that the concept of mind-body dualism is no longer true. All the thought processes in the body are deeply linked to the physical body. Joshua M. Ackerman, PhD, now of MIT, and Christopher C. Nocera, a graduate student at Harvard, are the other researchers who were part of this study.

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In one of the experiments, the researchers made the participants arrange a rough or smooth jigsaw puzzle and then read a passage about interaction between two people. Participants who first handled the rough jigsaw puzzle pieces were more likely to characterize the interaction as adversarial when compared to those who handled the smooth puzzles. The study published in the journal, Science, was based on the earlier work of Bargh, in which the researchers had reported that people judge others to be more generous and caring after having a warm coffee rather than a cold drink.

“Warmth, hardness, and roughness are the first few physical concepts that children develop and remember, and these are very significant to how they will develop the abstract concepts, like their view on other people and relationships," says Bargh. “It is these sensations that help a person to develop a mental picture on how the world develops," he adds. Physical experiences like hardness and roughness form the basis of our thoughts and perceptions and also influence our behavior towards others. According to Nocera, touch is the most underestimated sense in behavioral research. “Thus, greetings involving touch like handshakes may influence the social interactions in an unconscious way," adds Nocera.

The researchers report that these tactile impressions will definitely form a new frontier in social influence and communication and the first impressions obtained from touch sense may be very important for pollsters, negotiators, job seekers and others interested in interpersonal communication. In another experiment the participants were asked to touch a soft blanket or a hard wood before being presented with a story on workplace interaction between an employee and a supervisor. Those who touched the hard block considered the employee as strict and rigid.