How Our Body Impacts Our Thinking

March 14, 2012 Katharina Lochner

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Do We Always Make Rational Decisions?

Some time ago, we learned that our body impacts our thinking. For example, we lean forwards when reflecting on our future and backwards when remembering our past. Now researchers found that our posture also impacts our estimation of numbers.

Anita EerlandTulio Guadalupe and Rolf Zwaan from Erasmus University in Rotterdam based their study on the fact that people mentally represent numbers on a line with smaller numbers on the left and larger numbers on the right. They made their study participants lean either to the left or to the right or stay centered and then had them estimate numbers like for example the height of the Eiffel Tower or how many number-one hits Michael Jackson had. The participants did not notice the manipulation of their posture. They found that estimates were significantly smaller when people were leaning to the left during decision making than when they were centered or leaning to the right. Thus, which way we lean seems to have an impact on our estimation of numbers.

The original article was published in the journal Psychological Science, and there is an outline of the two studies the authors conducted on the Association of Psychological Science homepage.

This study once more shows that we don’t think as rationally as we expect. However, it is something we can become aware of and then consciously base our judgments on facts.

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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