If you want to get the upper hand in a negotiation, give your opponent a latte and sit them on a sofa.
As new insights into the mind show, people’s behaviours are shaped by their physical sensations — all without their knowing. For instance, if you’re holding something warm, you’ll treat the people around you more warmly.
That’s great if you want to make a friend, but not so great if you’re sticking to your asking price.
Tel Aviv University professor Thalma Lobel tells Business Insider that this is all a part of embodied cognition, a growing field within psychology that shows how your mental life is a part of your physical life. Her new book, “Sensation: The New Science of Physical Intelligence,” details why.
“As children, we first learn the concrete concepts of close or far, smooth or rough, warm or cold,” she says. “On the basis of these concrete concepts we learn more abstract concepts.”
You can hear it in the way we talk about each other: She’s a smooth operator; he’s a cool customer; they’re warm people.
“When we feel the physical sensations,” Lobel says, “they activate the more abstract concepts. That’s why when we touch something warm, without our being aware of that process, it activates the concept of a warm personality.”
The book examines a range of research on the way our physical sensations shape our mental lives and, as a consequence, our social interactions.
In a 2008 study, experimenters gave cups of coffee to people and asked them to rate somebody’s personality based on a snippet of information. The trick was that one group held a hot cup off coffee, and the other held iced coffee. The group that held the hot cup gave a much higher rating of “warmth” than the people holding the iced coffee.
“None of them were aware that the cup of coffee influenced their judgment,” Lobel says.
In a related 2010 study, experimenters sat subjects down and put them into a simulated negotiation over the price of a car. Their first offer was rejected and then they had to make another offer. The trick was that one group of subjects was seated in soft chairs, another in hard chairs. As blog Neuromarketing reports, the people in soft chairs increased their offers by almost 40% more than those in hard chairs. The people in hard chairs, on the other hand, were hard bargainers.
In a 2011 study, experimenters gave subjects a bit of chocolate, a cracker, or no food. They were then asked to fill out an unrelated questionnaire, after which an experimenter told the participants that “another professor from the psychology department had just stopped by and said that volunteers for another, unrelated study were needed.” Who was more likely to volunteer? The chocolate eaters.
The conclusion: In a negotiation, give your opponents something sweet and warm and sit them in a soft chair, and it could tip the scale to your favour, Lobel says.
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