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I have an interest in human thought processes — particularly those that drive decision-making and behavior. Why? Part of it is because of the ramifications those unconcious processes can have beyond what we may see i.e. the butterfly’s wings. I think it’s also because we often see decisions we can’t understand – how was that decision arrived at? – and we want to know what drove them.
This weekend I was doing some research and came across a variety of interesting connections between what we think — and our physical being. The kinds of judgments we make apparently about people and our reaction to ideas relates to our own physicality – we are human after all. It isn’t something most of us are aware of (I don’t think) yet it does reinforce the importance of suspending disbelief and belief in our daily encounters and decision making — and being aware.
ABC news reported on several of these studies a couple of years ago. (Read their report here: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ColdandFluNews/story?id=6096724&page=1)
For example, according to their report, a study out of Yale found those who held a cold beverage “gave more negative or ‘cold’ attributes like selfishness” to a person they were meeting, while those who held a warm beverage “rated the same person with ‘warm’ attributes like generosity.” “In a second study,they gave 53 test subjects hot or cold packs to evaluate under the guise of a product study…Afterward, the group touching the cold packs were more likely to act ‘cold-hearted’ by choosing a small giveaway prize for themselves, while the group touching the hot pack was more likely to choose a giveaway gift certificate for a friend.” Even minor changes in movement can impact perception.
Another study “has found that whether a person is asked to push off from a desk with their hands on top, or pull in with their hands below, will influence whether they make positive or negative judgments.” (Kareem Johnson, a professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia who studies human behavior is cited as the author of this work in the ABC report but that is incorrect. ABC may have been referring to the work of Joseph Priester according to Professor Johnson.)
And whether you feel socially excluded or included can impact your guess of room temperature with individual estimates ranging from 54 to 104 degrees depending on whether you feel excluded (cold) or accepted (warm) according to research at the University of Toronto published in the journal Psychological Science. (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ColdandFluNews/story?id=6096724&page=1)
Research out in May by University of Michigan professors Lee and Schwarz (Please read here: http://sitemaker.umich.edu/wing.sing.lee/files/lee___schwarz_washing_away_dissonance_science_7may2010_ms.pdf) cites earlier studies that found “Hand-washing removes more than dirt—it also removes the guilt of past misdeeds, weakens the urge to engage in compensatory behavior” (Zhong, Liljenquist 2006), “and attenuates the impact of disgust on moral judgment” (Schnall, Benton, Harvey 2008)
It also cites past and more recent research that shows to avoid buyers remorse “People reduce dissonance by perceiving the chosen alternative as more attractive, and the rejected alternative as less attractive, after choice, thereby justifying their decision.” (Festinger 1957 and Cooper 2007). They tested whether hand-washing had an impact and found that it does “suggesting that hand-washing psychologically removes traces of the past, including concerns about past decisions.” “Much as washing can cleanse us from traces of past immoral behavior, it can also cleanse us from traces of past decisions, reducing the need to justify them.”
The New York Times had a Freakonomics article summarizing literature on similar topics in September. http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/01/cleanliness-is-next-to-morality/
And David Pizarro at Cornell has done an impressive amount of research in the area of judgment and influences on judgment. Please see http://www.peezer.net/publications/.
I think we are in early stages of understanding how our bodies impact our minds and decisions — but it is an important topic for our judicial system to consider – both in terms of influences on criminality and judgments of criminals.
See this article published last year by Inbar and Pizarro. http://www.astcweb.org/public/publication/article.cfm/1/21/2/How-disgust-influences-moral-and-social-and-legal-judgments
As boards make important decisions and listen to the conclusions of others and evaluate their own decision making outcomes, it’s important to keep in mind how being merely human (in live bodies and physical environments) can impact our judgments, after all.
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