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A Woman's Touch Encourages Financial Risk-Taking
Date:5/14/2010

se between investing $5 (which represented $500) in some combination of riskier bank stocks or in safer bonds that delivered a 4 percent return.

Those who'd been touched on the back by a woman put more of their money in stocks. Those who shook hands with a woman also showed a slight increase in their risk-taking. Neither shaking hands with or being touched by a man had any effect.

"People find even a woman's handshake slightly comforting," Levav said.

In the third experiment, participants were asked to write an essay about a time they felt "secure and supported" or "insecure and alone." Recalling these events "primed" participants to feel a certain way.

Researchers then repeated the touch vs. not touching situations prior to making investment choices.

Those who wrote about feeling insecure and were not touched were especially conservative in their investment choices. Those who wrote an essay about feeling insecure but were then touched by a woman were more likely to take financial risks -- about the same as those who started off feeling secure, according to the study.

Many previous studies have demonstrated that maternal contact is key to the development of children, Levav said, and that's true not just for human babies, but for many species, even spiders.

One study found that baby spiders who'd spent more time with their mothers were more likely to explore the far reaches of their maze, Levav noted.

"Maternal physical contact serves to promote attachment with the infant, which promotes feelings of security, which gives the infant inner strength to explore new uncertain things," Levav said.

The study also suggests that decisions that appear to be driven by rational processes can be influenced by more subjective, emotional and subconscious factors, Levav said. In his experiments, most participants could not remember having being touched.

The experiments are "fascina
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