Touch Influences Thought: Embodied Cognition

The next time you go on a job interview be sure to bring your resume in a heavy, well-constructed portfolio and encourage the person interviewing you to drink a hot beverage. You’re more likely to get the job.

Research in the field of embodied cognition has shown job candidates appear more important when they are associated with heavy objects. In addition, people are more likely to think of you as personable and believable if they hold a hot drink in their hand than if they hold an iced drink.

Embodied cognition is based on the emerging psychological hypothesis that bodily perceptions – like touch – influence how we think. The hardness, weight, shape and texture of objects affect our decisions about unrelated situations. It might sound like voodoo science but an incredible array of scientific experiments bear this out:

  • A University of Illinois study showed that subjects were more successful at solving a physics problem when researchers told them to swing their arms.
  • In a paper called “Weight as an Embodiment of Importance,” students thought a book was heavier when they were told it was important to their studies. They also judged foreign currency as more valuable if they held heavier clipboards while making their decisions.
  • A University of Wisconsin study found that subjects took longer to process negative statements when they were no longer frown due to Botox injections.
  • In a study published in Psychological Science, University of Aberdeen researchers linked our perceptions of time and space. Study participants consistently leaned forward when talking about the future and leaned backwards when remembering the past.
  • A UC Santa Barbara study demonstrated that participants who held dental floss while being taught how to properly floss reported flossing many more times in a week than those participants who did not.

As a marketing professional, it’s impossible to ignore the potential ramifications. The physical environment can have unexpected impact on how people internalize our marketing messages. We might be able to control what they see, hear or read but we can’t anticipate what they touch.

Now back to that interview: When it’s time to negotiate your compensation, be sure to sit in a hard, sturdy chair. Embodied cognition shows that you’re likely to negotiate better than you normally would.

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One Response to Touch Influences Thought: Embodied Cognition

  1. michael February 15, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    Jonathan, very interesting thoughts, i would believe that customers having the possibility to “touch” on B.I. with our mobility offering will prove these points – i phones, i pads are usually fairly worm objects, combined with a good user interface and the right personalized delivered information, the user could very quickly undertake an “emotional” ownership. Great loyalty !

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