Miller-McCune News reports on a new study that found people think more carefully when they carry heavier objects:
In another test, participants were asked to rate a series of arguments in favor of building a controversial subway system. Once again, those carrying the heavier clipboard seem to have thought through the issue more thoroughly: They were less likely to agree with the weaker arguments and more likely to have a clear opinion on the project.
So why would holding something heavy result in “greater investment of effort” (to use the researchers’ description) in an intellectual exercise? Jostmann and his colleagues point to theories of embodied cognition. “We assume that experiencing weight influences judgments of importance because the concept of importance is linked to experiences of weight,” they write.
“Through repeated experiences with heavy objects since early childhood, people learn that dealing with heavy objects generally requires more effort, in terms of physical strength or cognitive planning, than dealing with light objects. People may thus associate the experience of weight with the increased expenditure of bodily or mental effort.”
Much of the research into behavior change and behavioral economics has focused on how the context of a decision can affect the decision taken. People are more likely to “choose” a default option because they won’t bother to opt out. People will steal a $1 can of coke but not a $1 bill. And so on. But not very much of it focuses on the physical context in which we make decisions, which can be just as important. For instance, drivers are more cautious and deferential to others at an unmarked intersection than they are at one with a stoplight.
Still, I’m not sure what implication this has on early childhood education or workforce programs. It seems impractical to deliberately weigh people down. So I’m curious if you have any ideas. How could you add a little heft to the people you serve? (And I don’t mean through calories!) Any ideas?