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“Sense of Touch Colors Our View of the World”

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A new study has just been published on how people’s touching of objects influences how they act or feel. In other words, if they’re touching something rough, they might show less flexibility and if they’re holding something soft, then they might show more.

Here’s an excerpt from a report on the study:

The physical characteristics of the objects you touch can influence how you perceive the world. Holding a heavy clipboard, for example, may lead you to view a job applicant as more serious. And, according to a new study, running your hand over sandpaper may make you view social interactions as more hostile and competitive.

The link between physical sensations and behavior appears to hold even when the person passively touches an object. When the researchers seated participants in hard or soft chairs and asked them to imagine haggling with a dealer over the price of a new car, they found that the people in hard wooden chairs were less willing to negotiate.

The study’s authors make a couple of other interesting comments:

“Touch remains perhaps the most underappreciated sense in behavioral research,” says co-author Christopher C. Nocera, a graduate student in Harvard’s Department of Psychology. “Our work suggests that greetings involving touch, such as handshakes and cheek kisses, may in fact have critical influences on our social interactions, in an unconscious fashion.”

“First impressions are liable to be influenced by the tactile environment, and control over this environment may be especially important for negotiators, pollsters, job seekers, and others interested in interpersonal communication,” the authors write in Science. “The use of ‘tactile tactics’ may represent a new frontier in social influence and communication.”

I’ve posted previously about The Power of “Touch” In The Classroom.

In addition to the “tactile tactics” I talk about in that post, I also regularly let challenging students sit in the very soft, comfortable chair I inherited that is at my desk. I use it as a “carrot” with the few who need that kind of classroom management tactic. When students are sitting there, they tend to be much more focused and less disruptive. I wonder if that’s an example of what these researchers are talking about?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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