Not Exactly Rocket Science covers a fascinating study on how touching different objects influences how we perceive the world – based on abstract associations between things like weight and seriousness.
Weight is linked to importance, so that people carrying heavy objects deem interview candidates as more serious and social problems as more pressing. Texture is linked to difficulty and harshness. Touching rough sandpaper makes social interactions seem more adversarial, while smooth wood makes them seem friendlier. Finally, hardness is associated with rigidity and stability. When sitting on a hard chair, negotiators take tougher stances but if they sit on a soft one instead, they become more flexible.
The study, led by psychologist Joshua Ackerman, involved a series of innovative experiments that asked people to complete tasks and looked at the effect of simply changing texture or sensation on how the participants’ behaved or perceived the situation. For example:
Ackerman also looked at the influence of an object‚Äôs hardness. He asked 49 volunteers to touch either a hard block of word or a soft blanket, under the pretence of examining objects to be used in a magic act. Afterwards, when they read an interaction between a boss and an employee, those who felt the wood thought the employee was stricter and more rigid than those who touched the blanket (but no less positive)
This has obvious practical implications and I suspect attractive shop assistants will find themselves puzzled by sudden influx of the oddly alluring strangers who keep asking for a couple of peaches before asking them out.
Link to write-up from Not Exactly Rocket Science.