ACME in the News
9.5.12: John Bargh interviewed by Chicago Tribune
Physical warmth can diminish feelings of loneliness and increase feelings of generosity, finds Yale psychologist John A. Bargh. In a recent study published in Emotion, participants who reported feeling the loneliest also took the warmest, longest, and most frequent baths or showers -- "quite literally," Bargh says, "to compensate for feeling socially cold... Abstract psychological and social concepts--how we think and feel about people, including ourselves--grow out of basic physical concepts like warmth and coldness." Read More...
8.18.12: Rising Field of Science Boosts How We Grasp Thought: John Bargh Interviewed by Post Gazette
...Our physical sensations also can influence higher-level cognition and social views. For example, when people were prompted in one experiment to think about the H1N1 virus, those who were not vaccinated were more negative toward immigrants than those who were vaccinated. These seemingly disconnected variables actually reflect primitive attitudes, such as people wanting to guard their health and therefore being wary of strangers, according to John Bargh, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University, who worked on the experiment. "The higher level systems ... are built on the lower ones," he said. Read More...
6.18.12: Hidden Persuaders: John Bargh Interviewed by Ode Magazine
...This was a remarkable experiment to see if people could be unconsciously influenced through their sense of touch. The half of the students who sat in hard wooden seats offered less money to purchase the car. "Our brain's systems evolved for millions of years with no conscious direction," says John Bargh, the Yale University psychologist who helped devise the hard chair experiment and a pioneer of the science of the new unconscious. "This unconscious machinery is still there, and it can be used to do all kinds of promising things."Read More...
6.15.12: From Brain Science, New Questions about Free Will: John Bargh cited by Science News
"Although it is often taken for granted that goal pursuit originates in conscious decisions, it can also arise from unconscious sources." The scientists cited work by researchers such as John Bargh at Yale University, who showed how motivation toward a goal could arise without conscious awareness...Read More...
5.16.12: Commentary by Bargh listed as "Essential Read in Cognition" in Psychology Today
After a group of researchers published a purported failure to replicate a classic priming study from this lab, Discover Magazine published an article equating priming research to the phenomenon of "Clever Hans". Bargh responded to the criticisms, prompting an article in Science News about priming research and further discussion in Discover and an article in Nature online on the replicability of effects in psychology. Bargh reviewed research on the replicability of priming resarch, which Psychology Today added to a list of "Essential Reads in Cognition."
7.9.11: Research by Bargh and Shalev featured in Vancouver Sun
Yale University researchers have discovered that feelings of social exclusion are strongly linked with taking more frequent baths and showers, lingering longer in them, and preferring higher temperatures. This effect was consistent and highly significant across a variety of experiments with about 400 people ages 18 to 65, with loneliness triggering a need for social warmth that could "be satisfied instead by applications of physical warmth." Read more...
6.25.10 Research by Ackerman, Nocera, and Bargh featured in Wired, Discover, Boston Observer, and NPR.
Sense of Touch Shapes Snap Judgments
Sitting in a hard chair can literally turn someone into a hardass. Holding a heavy clipboard leads to weighty decisions. Rubbing rough surfaces makes us prickly. So found researchers studying the interaction between physical touch and social cognition. The experiments included would-be car buyers who, when seated in a cushy chair, were less likely to drive a stiff bargain. The findings don't just suggest tricks for salesman, but may illuminate how our brains develop.
"The way people understand the world is through physical experiences. The first sense they develop is touch," said study co-author Josh Ackerman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist. As they grow up, those physical experiences shape how people conceptualize abstract, social experience, he said. "Later on, you can do what we did--trigger different physical experiences, and produce changes in people's thoughts."
Published June 24 in Science, the study is the latest addition to a booming field of embodied cognition, which over the last decade has scientifically eroded the notion that mind and body are distinctly separate.
The paper was co-authored by Yale University psychologist John Bargh. His group is especially interested in touch, which is one of the first senses to develop.
09.27.09 John Bargh and Josh Ackerman Interviewed by The Boston Globe
Thinking literally: The surprising ways that metaphors shape your world
Drawing on philosophy and linguistics, cognitive scientists have begun to see the basic metaphors that we use all the time not just as turns of phrase, but as keys to the structure of thought. By taking these everyday metaphors as literally as possible, psychologists are upending traditional ideas of how we learn, reason, and make sense of the world around us. Click here to go to the article.
“The abstract way we think is really grounded in the concrete, bodily world much more than we thought,” says John Bargh, a psychology professor at Yale and leading researcher in this realm.
A few psychologists have begun to ponder applications. Ackerman, for example, is looking at the impact of perceptions of hardness on our sense of difficulty. The study is ongoing, but he says he is finding that something as simple as sitting on a hard chair makes people think of a task as harder. If those results hold up, he suggests, it might make sense for future treaty negotiators to take a closer look at everything from the desks to the upholstery of the places where they meet. Read more...
08.24.09 John Bargh Interviewed by Seed Magazine
Honesty is an Automatic Process (For Some)
Using fMRI to examine the brain's activity during lying and telling the truth, researchers Joshua Greene and Joseph Paxon recently found that honesty is an automatic process—but only for some people. Click here to go to the article.
Their findings—that honesty is automatic for some people—is part of a growing body of work that shows that many, if not most, of our daily actions are not under our conscious control. According to John Bargh, a Yale social psychologist who studies automaticity, even our higher mental processes are performed unconsciously in response to environmental cues.
"It could potentially be some of the most intriguing evidence for group selection," Bargh speculates, adding that the results are reminiscent of the evolutionary idea that "cheaters" and "suckers" coexist in a specific ratio in the animal kingdom. Read More...
07.19.09 Research by Harris, Bargh, and Brownell featured in The New York Times
Snack Ads Spur Children to Eat More
A new study finds that seeing food ads on television can induce people to eat more snacks while watching. Click here to go to the article.
In one experiment, conducted by researchers from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, 118 children, ages 7 to 11, were each given bowls of Goldfish crackers and then left to watch a 14-minute cartoon. During the commercial breaks, some of the children saw ads for games and entertainment; others watched four spots for unhealthy snacks like waffle sticks with syrup, fruit roll-ups and potato chips. The children who saw the food spots ate 45 percent more Goldfish than those who watched the game commercials.
According to the authors, the experiment suggests "a direct causal link between food advertising and greater snack consumption." Read More...
06.16.09 John Bargh interviewed by Edge
"We discovered a new vein of research--the relation between physical and social or psychological concepts--that we came to by taking evolutionary principles seriously and applying them to psychology. We weren't using evolutionary psychology, which has largely been focused on mating and reproduction. Our focus, rather, was in terms of evolutionary biology and the basic principles of natural selection: and that field makes clear that humans must have had these kinds of mechanisms or these processes to guide our behavior prior to evolution or emergence of consciousness."
04.15.09 Research by Ackerman and Bargh Featured in TIME
Recession Psychology: We Will Spend Again
Forgoing things you want to buy is tough. Watching others do it only makes it tougher. Eventually, a new study suggests, your self-control will give way to your credit card. Click here to go to the article.
The recession has demanded great self-control from many Americans--Even those who haven't lost everything are spending less. A new study published in the journal Psychological Science sheds more light on this phenomenon by showing how we respond when we watch others exercise self-control, as so many of us are watching fellow Americans cut back in the recession.
The authors of the study, psychologists Joshua Ackerman and John Bargh of Yale and social psychologists Noah Goldstein and Jenessa Shapiro of the University of California, Los Angeles, wondered whether people's self-control might be drained vicariously, just by imagining others having to resist temptations. Read More...
10.23.08 Research by Williams and Bargh featured in The New York Times
Heart-Warming News on Hot Coffee
In a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people's judgments of and behavior toward a stranger by handing them a cup of coffee. Click here to go to article.
At long last, we have scientific guidance regarding that great question of social lubrication: Should you ask someone to meet for a drink or a cup of coffee? We may also have cause to update Ogden Nash's famously short poem, "Reflections on Ice-Breaking" and there's a prize for the Lab reader who can do it in style.
Pyschologists report in Science that you're more likely to think warmly of someone else if you're holding something warm in your hand like a mug of coffee or tea. The experimenters, Lawrence Williams of the University of Colorado and John Bargh of Yale, gave cups of either hot or iced coffee to people and asked them to rate someone's personality based on a packet of information. The ones who held the hot cup rated that individual significantly higher for "warmth" than did the subjects holding the iced coffee. Read More...
08.15.08 Research by Williams and Bargh Featured in Scientific American
Arranging for Serenity: How Physical Space and Emotion Intersect
The concept of "psychological distance" may help explain the art of feng shui. Click here to go to the article.
Psychologists have some ideas about this connection among physical space and thought and emotion" or what they call "psychological distance." We have all had the sensation of being "too close" to a situation, needing to "get away" and "putting some distance" between ourselves and others. Our sense of emotional connectedness (or lack of it) is tightly entangled with our perception of geography and patterns in space.
Lawrence E. Williams and John A. Bargh, two Yale University psychologists, decided to explore the power of these perceptions in the laboratory, to see if indeed an ordered, open space affects people's emotions differently than a tighter, more closed-in environment does. Put another way, do we automatically embody and "feel" things such as crowding or spaciousness, clutter or order? Read More...