Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Sense of Touch Affects Our World View

Study Shows Link Between Sense of Touch and the Decisions People Make
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 24, 2010 -- Our sense of touch profoundly affects how we view the world and other people, influencing thoughts and behavior, new research indicates.

Investigators at Yale, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report that textures, shapes, and weights can influence judgments and decisions.

The researchers, for example, say that:

  • People sitting on hard, cushion-less chairs are less likely to compromise in price negotiations than people sitting on softer chairs.
  • Interviewers holding a heavy clipboard are likely to think job applicants take their work more seriously than if the clipboard is less weighty.

The researchers conducted a series of six experiments to demonstrate how dramatically the sense of touch affects how people view others and the world.

"It is behavioral priming through the seat of the pants," says study researcher John A. Bargh, PhD, of Yale, in a news release. "The old concepts of mind-body dualism are turning out not to be true at all. Our minds are deeply and organically linked to our bodies."

Bargh worked on the study along with former Yale researchers Joshua M. Ackerman, PhD, now of MIT, and Christopher C. Nocera, a graduate student at Harvard.

In addition to concluding that a hard chair creates a hard heart, the researchers also had participants arrange a rough or smooth jigsaw puzzle and then read a passage about an interaction between two people. Participants were more likely to characterize the interaction as adversarial if they had first handled rough, jigsaw puzzle pieces, as opposed to smooth ones.

The study, reported in the June 25 issue of Science, builds on previous work by Bargh that found people judge others to be more generous and caring after they had briefly held a cup of warm coffee rather than a cold drink.

Physical Experiences Influence Behavior

Bargh says in the news release that physical concepts such as warmth, hardness, and roughness are among the first feelings infants develop and remember.

Such feelings, he says, are critical to how young children and adults eventually develop abstract concepts about people and relationships.

These sensations, he says, help create a mental scaffold on which our understandings about the world develop as we age.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family