Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Science 25 June 2010:
Vol. 328 no. 5986 pp. 1712-1715
DOI: 10.1126/science.1189993

Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions

  1. Joshua M. Ackerman1,
  2. Christopher C. Nocera2 and
  3. John A. Bargh3

-Author Affiliations

  1. 1Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, E62, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.
  2. 2Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
  3. 3Department of Psychology, Yale University, Post Office Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Touch is both the first sense to develop and a critical means of information acquisition and environmental manipulation. Physical touch experiences may create an ontological scaffold for the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal conceptual and metaphorical knowledge, as well as a springboard for the application of this knowledge. In six experiments, holding heavy or light clipboards, solving rough or smooth puzzles, and touching hard or soft objects nonconsciously influenced impressions and decisions formed about unrelated people and situations. Among other effects, heavy objects made job candidates appear more important, rough objects made social interactions appear more difficult, and hard objects increased rigidity in negotiations. Basic tactile sensations are thus shown to influence higher social cognitive processing in dimension-specific and metaphor-specific ways.

Allowing jurors to touch exhibits can be a powerful anchor to the intended message of the exhibit. Thus, using evidence jurors can see and touch can be a powerful anchor.


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