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

t, researchers found that sitting in hard, cushion-less chairs made people tougher price negotiators and less willing to compromise than people placed in softer, more comfortable chairs.

Researchers had 86 participants haggle over the price of a new car with a sticker price of $16,500.

After their first offers were rejected, participants made second offers. Those sitting on unyielding wooden chairs raised their offered price by less than $900, while those in padded chairs upped their offer by more than $1,200.

The rigidity of the chair, researchers said, appears to have influenced people to take a "hard line" in negotiations.

The study is published in the June 25 issue of Science.

Phrases that use physical sensations to describe abstract concepts -- such as "a rough day" or "a warm person" -- are such an ingrained part of our everyday speech that we hardly notice we're doing it, Bargh said.

That may be because these impressions of the physical world begin to take root in infancy, eventually forming a "scaffold for the development of conceptual knowledge," Bargh said.

At birth, babies use their hands to acquire information about their environment, and research has shown that when young infants touch various objects, they can tell the difference between heavy and light objects, rough vs. smooth, warm vs. cold and hard vs. soft.

"The perception of tactile information is the first sense to develop in utero," said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. "It makes sense that there are going to be these cross-connections between what we feel with our hands and these concepts of language."

It's well accepted that our other senses are connected with abstract language -- what we see, hear and even smell, of course, stir up all sorts of thoughts and memories -- but the impact of sense of touch has been less appreciated, Bargh said.'/>"/>

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