Tuesday 21 February 2017

Hard chair key to tough talking

Published 24/06/2010 | 20:06

A study has shown that sinking into a comfy chair can make you a soft touch in negotiations
A study has shown that sinking into a comfy chair can make you a soft touch in negotiations

If you need to do some tough talking at a crucial meeting, sit on a hard chair.

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Sinking into a comfy seat could make you a soft touch, a study suggests.

New findings from a US study show that physical sensations have a major impact on social behaviour.

Psychologists carried out a series of tests which involved holding light and heavy clipboards, handling rough and smooth jigsaw puzzle pieces, and sitting in soft and hard chairs.

They found that job candidates were seen as more serious and better qualified when their CVs were read on a heavy clipboard. In another experiment, volunteers who read a passage about two interacting individuals were more likely to spot conflict if they first handled the rough puzzle.

A third test showed people placed on hard, cushionless chairs were less willing to compromise in price negotiations than those sitting comfortably.

Professor John Bargh, from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, said: "It is behavioural priming through the seat of the pants. 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."

Prof Bargh, whose research is reported in the journal Science, pointed out that physical concepts such as roughness, hardness and warmth were among the first that infants develop. They were critical to the way children and adults developed abstract notions about people and relationships, he said. This might, for instance, affect the perceived meaning of a warm smile or a hard heart, for instance.

Physical sensations helped create a "mental scaffold" upon which complex understandings of the world could be built, said the professorThe truth of this was reflected in everyday expressions such as "weighing in" with an opinion, "having a rough day" or "taking a hard line".

Prof Bargh added: "These physical experiences not only shape the foundation of our thoughts and perceptions, but influence our behaviour towards others, sometimes just because we are sitting in a hard instead of a soft chair."

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