Of our five senses, the one we pay the least attention to, and science studies the least, is touch. Yet recent experiments indicate that we may be vastly underrating the first sense we develop. Everything from the feel of the chair you sit on to what you're holding can influence your behavior and the decisions you make.
Imagine yourself touching this. You'll be kinder in the comments.
Over a series of studies, scientists found that they could easily manipulate people's feelings and perceptions based on nothing more than what the subjects were touching. Holding heavier objects, for instance, made men think more seriously about things, which in turn made them more likely to donate money to charity if asked. Men holding lighter objects were less likely to donate to charitable causes. People handling rough objects were more likely to see neutral social situations in a bad light, saying that other people were obviously in a bad mood. That means that the answer to arguably the most frequently asked question over the course of human history -- "What the fuck is your problem?" -- might be as simple as "The tag on this new underwear is digging into my ass."
He killed millions. But in his defense, that shirt looks wicked itchy.
Perhaps the most shocking find was that your hands didn't have to be the things doing the touching. People who sat in hard chairs were more likely to maintain a hard line in negotiations and were less receptive to their partner's way of thinking. So watch out for that next time you try to convince your boss you need a raise. If instead of a chair she offers you a pile of ducklings to sit on, you're basically screwed. After all, to be truly effective, ass kissing probably needs to be taken in new, horrifically literal directions.
One of the reasons it's difficult to lie to someone's face is that it's not just the words you're saying that have to sound convincing. You have to think about eye contact, body movements -- everything has to come together to tell a believable lie. Because of this, psychologists have always known that people are more likely to lie in a letter than face-to-face.
But a recent study found that while you might fib with pen and paper you are almost guaranteed to lie over email. Participants in the study were instructed to split $89 with a second party. They were told the other participant would not know the amount being split, and had to accept any amount offered. An incredible 92 percent of people using email lied about the amount of money they were splitting. Only 64 percent of those writing it down did (although, 64 percent? We're just bad at being a species, aren't we?). On average, the email users gave their partners $27 less than a fair split.
Person + Computer = Sociopath.
Not only that, the email users actually felt justified in lying. It seems that the act of merely staring at a computer screen is like injecting your soul with Botox, removing all emotional investment and guilt about what you type. It might be worth keeping that in mind the next time your boss emails you to tell you how well he thought your presentation went.
Constant, manic paranoia is all that can save your career.
The movies are full of complex brainwashing plots. Well, it turns out you can forget sleeper agents and Manchurian candidates. We are all one simple step away from being mobilized into an evil army of blood thirsty killers. All it would take is a supervillain with the will to rule the world and a big enough magnet.
Did someone say magnets?
Yes, it turns out our moral compass is as easy to fool as, well, a non-moral compass. Scientists at MIT conducted a study in which they pointed a magnetic wave "behind the right ear" of volunteers who had apparently failed to read the most crucial fine print in the history of release forms. The scientists were apparently trying to test their hypothesis that the back right is the part of the brain that's responsible for telling right from wrong. If you're anything like us, you find the term "back right" unsettlingly vague when it's being used by the guys trying to figure out how to flip humanity's "sociopath" switch.
Without the aid of a goatee.
Well, in case you're bad at pattern recognition, the participants who had their moral centers magnetized demonstrated an impaired ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. The scientists found that subjects could have their morality wiped in half a second, or the time it would take you to turn around and ask the guy in the white lab coat why he's pointing a laser tag gun at the back of your head. This makes our ability to tell right from wrong easier to erase than a VHS tape.
All that stands between you and Evil You.
The study found that subjects were especially willing to accept immoral situations as long as there was a "happy" outcome that justified the immoral means. So there you go, humanity. The guy who controls the giant magnetic crane at the junk yard can persuade you to off his wife for him, but he'll need to promise you cake first.
Now learn about how you've always been a bad person, in 6 Shockingly Evil Things Babies Are Capable Of. And then find out why you'll continue to be one, in 6 Obnoxious Old People Habits (Explained by Science)k.
And stop by Linkstorm to meet more awful people on the Internet.
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