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Science. 2010 Jun 25;328(5986):1712-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1189993.

Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgments and decisions.

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  • 1Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, E62, Cambridge, MA 02142, 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.

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