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What You Touch May Make You a 'Softie' or Play 'Hard Ball'
Date:6/25/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 25 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to forming first impressions about others, you probably realize that what you see, hear, and maybe even smell influence your assessment.

But new research suggests the way things feel -- the chair you're sitting on, the mug of coffee you're holding -- may subconsciously but powerfully influence your attitudes and behavior.

In a series of experiments, researchers at Yale University showed that the weight, texture and the things people incidentally touched altered how they felt and behaved.

In one experiment, researchers had 54 passersby evaluate a job candidate by reviewing their resume. They did so while holding either a light clipboard or a heavy clipboard.

Participants who held the heavy clipboard judged job applicants to be better overall and more seriously interested in the job than did people who were holding a lighter clipboard.

In addition, those holding the heavy clipboard considered their own task of rating candidates as more important than those holding a light clipboard.

According to the authors, those attitudes are also reflected in people's everyday language -- "heavy weight," "heavy handed," "weighty matters," and "gravity of the situation," for example.

However, those candidates whose resumes were viewed on the heavy clipboards were not rated as being more likely to get along with co-workers, suggesting that the sensation of "heavy" corresponds to seriousness, but not necessarily likeability, the researchers noted.

"Experiences with the physical world, such as hardness, heaviness or smoothness, activate the physical meaning of those concepts, but it also activates the abstract meanings of those concepts -- hard may mean difficult, heavy may mean serious," explained senior study author John Bargh, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale.

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