Tag Archives: touch

Inferring, Predicting Others’ Thoughts, Intentions, Behavior

Developing accurate inferences about others’ expectations and likely actions is essential for successful social interactions.

Demis Hassabis

Demis Hassabis

The brain’s process to develop predictions about others’ thoughts and behaviors was investigated by University College London’s Demis Hassabis, with R. Nathan Spreng of Cornell University, Vrije Universiteit’s Andrei A. Rusu, Harvard’s Clifford A. Robbins and Daniel Schacter, and Raymond A. Mar of York University.

R. Nathan Spreng

R. Nathan Spreng

Volunteers read about four fictional protagonists’ personality traits (Agreeableness, Extraversion), then imagined each character’s behaviors in different situations.
Each volunteer then participated in fMRI brain scans.

Andrei Rusu

Andrei Rusu

Medial prefrontal cortex activity in the brain was associated with accurate inferences about protagonists’ personality characteristics and behaviors, demonstrating that “brain activity can reveal whom someone is thinking about.

Clifford Robbins

Clifford Robbins

Lateral temporal cingulate cortex activity occurred when participants accurately determined protagonists’ degree of agreeableness, whereas activity in the posterior cingulate cortex activity was associated with correct judgments of protagonists’ degree of extraversion.

Daniel Schachter

Daniel Schachter

Brain regions responsible for processing inferences of personality traits and behaviors are functionally coupled with areas that differentiate people’s identities, found Hassabis’s group.

Raymond Mar

Raymond Mar

This means that specific brain regions “code” inferred personality traits in others and synthesize these characteristics into “personality models” that represent individuals and their likely behavior in new situations.

Matthew Hertenstein

Matthew Hertenstein

People can even infer others’ emotional intentions through unseen touchreported Matthew Hertenstein with DePauw University colleagues Brittany Bulleit and Ariane Jaskolka, UC Berkeley’s Dacher Keltner and Betsy App of University of Denver.

Brittany Bulleit-Ariane Jaskolka

Brittany Bulleit-Ariane Jaskolka

Two hundred volunteers in the United States and Spain accurately perceived anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy conveyed by unseen touch, but not happiness, sadness, surprise, embarrassment, envy, or pride.

Dacher Keltner

Observers also accurately identified emotions conveyed by participants’ “tactile displays” when they touched paired volunteers.

Betsy App

Betsy App

Gian Gonzaga of UCLA collaborated with Keltner and University of Wisconsin’s Daniel Ward to investigate male-female communication pairs’ ability to infer and detect emotion

Gian Gonzaga

Gian Gonzaga

Guided by Keltner’s “approach/inhibition theory of power,” the researchers attributed high power to one volunteer in a communication pair, then compared communications when both people were in an equal-power condition between women and men.

Participants endowed with high power showed behavioral disinhibition, and made less accurate judgments of the communication partner’s emotion.
In contrast, individuals in the low-power role demonstrated more behavioral inhibition and reported greater self-consciousness and anxiety.

Men in engaged in power behaviors even when participants were attributed equal power, and
this behavior was less apparent when both participants were men.
This finding confirms the continuing existence of power differentials between women and men and he team confirmed gender-related “emotion blindness” when male-female pairs misinterpreted each other’s attempts to convey specific emotions. 

Male pairs accurately detected anger, but men did not understand women’s attempts to convey anger in male-female pairs.
Likewise, women did not accurately detect men’s attempts to convey compassion, but female pairs accurately perceived expressions of happiness.

Sympathy was accurately communicated only when at least one woman was in the volunteer pair, demonstrating gender-related limitations to accurate empathy and emotionally intelligent interpersonal inferences.

-*How do you develop accurate inferences about others’ opinions and likely behaviors?
-*How do you revise your models of others’ personalities?

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Touch Can Increase Compliance, Persistence, Performance

Edward T. Hall

Edward T. Hall

Fifty years ago, Edward T. Hall, then of Illinois Institute of Technology, identified differences in interpersonal space ranging from intimate to personal to social to public, and inspired examination of acceptable interpersonal distance across cultures, genders, and organizations.

Circles of Interpersonal Space

Circles of Interpersonal Space

A decade later, Chris Kleinke, then of Wheaton College, expanded Hall’s work on “proxemics” as he explored the impact of close contact in public spaces, particularly non-intimate touching.

He found that in a relatively low-touch culture like the U.S., directing gaze and touch toward others increased their compliance with ambiguous requests in laboratory experiments.

Chris Kleinke

Chris Kleinke

Since then, this finding has been incorporated in sales, learning, healthcare, and other service settings based on evidence that touch increased performance when applied after a person initially agreed to a request, in research by Oakland University Jane C. Nannberg and Christine H. Hansen.

David Vaidis

David Vaidis

“Dosage” of touch had an additive effect when University of Paris’ David Vaidis and Severine Halimi-Falkowicz of University of Provence found that people who were touched two times persisted in lengthy tasks more than people who were touched once.

Likewise, University of Missouri’s Frank N. Willis and Helen K. Hamm found that touch contributed to compliance with challenging requests, especially in gaining agreement from people of the same gender as the requestor.

Séverine Halimi-Falkowicz

Séverine Halimi-Falkowicz

Another demonstration of influential touch was when female restaurant servers briefly touched customers on the hand or the shoulder while returning change from the bill payment.

These customers’ reactions were compared with other patrons who were not touched by the servers, in research by University of Mississippi‘s  April H. Crusco and Christopher G. Wetzel of Rhodes College.

Chris Wetzel

Chris Wetzel

They evaluated customers’ reactions to service, food, setting, and other elements of the dining experience with a restaurant survey as well as the gratuity amount, expressed as a percentage of the bill.

Customers who were touched on the hand or shoulder gave the server significantly larger gratuities than those who were not touched, and there was no significant difference between tips from customers who had been touched on the hand or the shoulder.

These findings confirm the influence of interpersonal touch in public commercial settings, and offer a reminder that non-intimate touching can increase cooperation and commitment to complete lengthy or challenging tasks.

-*How have you used interpersonal touch in public work situations to enable cooperation and performance?

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