Monday, June 28, 2010

A Touching Bit of Research: Tactile Sense and Decision-Making

"Sense of Touch Affects Decision-Making? Maybe Not a Crazy Idea"
Starting a Small Business Without Losing My Mind (June 25, 2010)

"When I read this article's headline and first paragraph, I was ready to dismiss the whole thing as silly science: the sort of thing that folks with letters after their name do sometimes, to increase their own status or push some political preference. Or maybe because they don't know any better...."

That blog post is brilliant! Insightful! Thought-provoking! The Lemming should know: I wrote it myself.

Seriously? I ran into a Wired Science article last Friday: "Sense of Touch Shapes Snap Judgments," whose headline and cleverly-written first paragraph encouraged me to dismiss the whole thing as more silly science.

I'm glad I kept reading, because I think the researchers are onto something:

"...The experiments included would-be car buyers who, when seated in a cushy chair, were less likely to drive a stiff bargain. The findings don't just suggest tricks for salesman, but may illuminate how our brains develop.

" 'The way people understand the world is through physical experiences. The first sense they develop is touch,' said study co-author Josh Ackerman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist. As they grow up, those physical experiences shape how people conceptualize abstract, social experience, he said. 'Later on, you can do what we did — trigger different physical experiences, and produce changes in people's thoughts.'

Published June 24 in Science, the study is the latest addition to a booming field of embodied cognition, which over the last decade has scientifically eroded the notion that mind and body are distinctly separate....

"The notion that mind and body are distinctly separate?" Okay - although I thought we'd known that we use our brains for thinking for - well, quite a long time. (More about that in another of my blogs: "State-of-the-Art Neuroscience, About Two Dozen Centuries Back," Drifting at the Edge of Time and Space (June 1, 2010))

Anyway: My post over in Starting a Small Business Without Losing My Mind wasn't much more than a sort of 'hey, this might be useful' heads-up. Plus a suggestion that soft chairs for clients might be a good idea.

Besides practical marketing applications, I think this "embodied cognition" research is very interesting: because it looks like we may be discovering a physical angle on the development of metaphor.

"Metaphor?" If you're not very familiar with that term, you've got lots of company. In my opinion, Western civilization may be the culture which has most successfully ignored metaphor and poetry in general. Which is another topic. (More: ""God Created Man in His Image" wasn't Written by An American," A Catholic Citizen in America (January 25, 2010))

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