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Psychol Sci. 2013 Jan 1;24(1):41-7. doi: 10.1177/0956797612449176. Epub 2012 Nov 26.

Treating thoughts as material objects can increase or decrease their impact on evaluation.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Campus de Cantoblanco, Carretera de Colmenar Km. 15, Madrid, Spain.


In Western dualistic culture, it is assumed that thoughts cannot be treated as material objects; however, language is replete with metaphorical analogies suggesting otherwise. In the research reported here, we examined whether objectifying thoughts can influence whether the thoughts are used in subsequent evaluations. In Experiment 1, participants wrote about what they either liked or disliked about their bodies. Then, the paper on which they wrote their thoughts was either ripped up and tossed in the trash or kept and checked for errors. When participants physically discarded a representation of their thoughts, they mentally discarded them as well, using them less in forming judgments than did participants who retained a representation of their thoughts. Experiment 2 replicated this finding and also showed that people relied on their thoughts more when they physically kept them in a safe place-putting their thoughts in their pockets-than when they discarded them. A final study revealed that these effects were stronger when the action was performed physically rather than merely imagined.

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