AoJ on Core77

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

For those who may not have seen via twitter, I’m very excited to announce a new collaboration with Core77 — I’ll be writing a monthly column on the site, starting right now! My first piece is actually more about design and psychology more broadly, but it relates to the unconscious effects of aesthetics that I often write about here on the site. Here’s an excerpt:

If you want to convince someone about something, you’d better give them a soft seat.

This is one design implication coming out of a surprising new set of studies that examines the relationship between our sense of touch and our attitudes and decisions. The studies looked at the unconscious associations between aesthetic elements such as texture, hardness, and weight, and found that by exposing subjects to these elements, researchers could elicit different responses to the same social questions and tests.

For example, study participants who sat in a soft seat and were asked to negotiate with a car dealer made far more generous second offers than those who sat in hard seats. The hard seats literally made them more rigid. Similarly, when volunteers were asked to read and evaluate a story about an interaction between a supervisor and an employee, the ones in the hard wooden chairs viewed the boss as stricter and more rigid than the ones who sat in soft, cushioned chairs. In another experiment, participants who had just put together a puzzle with pieces coated in rough sandpaper were more likely to find a story of an ambiguous social interaction to be difficult and adversarial than those who had put together a puzzle made of smooth, varnished pieces. Harsh textures evidently prime us to think harshly. Other related studies have shown correlations between temperature and social attitudes (proving the intrinsic truth behind the phrases “warm fuzzies” and “cold pricklies”), between weight and perceived seriousness, and between “clean smells” and moral behavior.

Click here to head over to Core77 to keep reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and know about other topics you might like to see covered in this new forum. Thanks for reading!

June 30th, 2010


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    Discussion (3 Comments)

  1. davidbdale on July 8, 2010

    Thank you for this blog, Ingrid, my new favorite and immediately blogrolled. Thank @mitten for tweeting the link to your core77 post on chairs. I want to be you.

  2. Mara on July 14, 2010

    This is fascinating, Ingrid. Thanks for sharing. Makes me think about how charming it would be to find a snip of velvet attached to a favorite book.

  3. =mwe= on July 16, 2010

    I just found your blog via NYT Mag “Consumed” article this past Sunday. It’s pretty terrific, especially the smart writing. I can’t wait to read more. Thanks for sharing.
    Mary Ellen


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