The gentle touch.

27 Aug

Last month, the telegraph ran a piece about how physical touch can affect your emotional mood. This intrigues me.

I may as well post the entire article as it’s fairly short but informative.

Researchers found that the physical touch of your surroundings directly affects the way you view the outside world, especially other people. The softer the touch, the happier and more generous you are; the harder, the more selfish and aggressive.

They believe that the changes in mood are a throwback to when you are a baby and physical comfort means everything.

“Our minds are deeply and organically linked to our bodies,” said Professor John Bargh, Professor, a social psychologist at Yale University in America.

In a series of six experiments documented in the journal Science, the team of psychologists demonstrated how dramatically our sense of touch affects how we view the world.

Interviewers holding a heavy clipboard, compared to a light one, thought job applicants took their work more seriously.

Subjects who read a passage about an interaction between two people were more likely to characterise it as adversarial if they had first handled rough jigsaw puzzle pieces, compared to smooth ones.

And people sitting in hard, cushionless chairs were less willing to compromise in price negotiations than people who sat in soft, comfortable chairs.

The research builds upon a 2008 which found that people believe others to be more generous and caring after they had briefly held a warm cup of coffee, rather than a cold drink.

Physical concepts such as roughness, hardness, and warmth are among the first that infants develop – and the study suggests these are crucial to how people eventually develop ideas about people and relationships, such as understanding the meaning of a warm smile or a hard heart.

Touch is an important sense for exploring of the world – so helps us build our understandings of the world as we grow older, and it is thought this is reflected in our own language, including everyday expressions such as “weighing in with an opinion”, “having a rough day” or “taking a hard line”.

Professor Bargh said: “These physical experiences not only shape the foundation of our thoughts and perceptions, but influence our behaviour towards others, sometimes just because we are sitting in a hard instead of a soft chair.”

This is an interesting insight, if not incredibly obvious when you think about it. I mean, everyone loves a nice warm cuddly thing over a hard cold thing, just makes sense. It does make me think though, could I exploit this known human trait to my advantage? Probably. I could look at how I create the surroundings to my project. Have a comforting booth that relaxes the user. Makes them more likely to remember me and remember me favourably.

Maybe I should offer tea?

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