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being touched

Researchers Law­rence E. Wil­liams and John A. Bargh have been looking at the effect of physical distance on social judgement and their recent study builds on that work. “The bas­ic sci­en­tif­ic im­plica­t­ion is about ex­plor­ing the link be­tween the phys­i­cal world and the psy­chog­i­cal world,” said Wil­liams, “it’s at the same time sub­tle and very pow­er­ful—a re­peat­ed as­socia­t­ion of phys­i­cal warmth that is learn­ed over a life­time.”

Wil­liams not­ed that peo­ple nat­u­rally speak about oth­ers be­ing “warm” or “cold,” and pre­fer to spend time with those they per­­ceive as “warm.” Bargh said the results of their study suggest physical temperature affects not just the way we perceive others but also how we behave and act.

“Ex­pe­ri­ences of phys­i­cal tem­pe­r­a­ture per se af­fect one’s im­pres­sions of and pro-social be­hav­ior to­ward oth­er peo­ple, with­out one’s aware­ness of such in­flu­ences,” said Wil­liams. “At a … meet­ing, for in­stance, be­ing will­ing to reach out and tou­ch anoth­er hu­man be­ing, to shake their hand, those ex­pe­riences do mat­ter al­though we may not al­ways be aware of them. In a restaurant, it’s been shown that wait staff who tou­ch cus­tomers usu­ally get a bet­ter tip. It’s a nice gesture, but it al­so has a warm­ing ef­fec­t.”

source: Williams, L.E. & Bargh, J.A. “Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth.” Science (24), October 2008, vol. 322, pp. 606-607. Click here for the abstract. image: fractals.

One response »

  1. yes, nancy (eagle eye): this post has been up before for a few early morning hours. I withdrew it when something else seemed more opportune. p


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