In researching studies on the brain I came across a research study out of the Netherlands that seemed interesting, although slightly bizarre. Researchers at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam have found that humans tend to estimate figures differently based on how their body is leaning. This could influence the way we make decisions.
Their paper, published in Psychological Science, set out to prove that body stance tends to influence the way a person makes estimates. It is a little qwirky for a scientific study theme, but the findings are interesting.
Anita Eerland led the team of scientists through two experiments to prove their theory that by subtly making people lean to the right or left it would affect their number estimates. The 91 undergraduate students who volunteered replied to estimation questions while standing on the balancing board of a Wii game. The subjects postures were changed according to the way the researchers manipulated them, and were not aware of the changes that were taking place. The manipulation was done through a video screen.
Volunteers balanced on the Wii board and were asked to maintain a straight posture, and the computer screen in front of them would help them stay level. The researchers, however, moved the bar so it tilted slightly one way or another, or left it level.
In the first experiment, one group of the volunteers were asked to make visual estimations based on things they could see in their mind – such as the height of a building or the population of a city. The second group were asked to make guesses based on a scale from one to ten, such as how many grandchildren Queen Beatrix has.
The groups were split into six groups for both experiments, with the only changes being the order of the questions asked and the induced posture.
When the experiments were finished the volunteers were each asked to complete another questionnaire to find out if they actually knew any of the answers, or were aware that their posture had been altered. None of the group knew any of the answers, meaning all the answers given were true estimates. None had caught on to the fact that their posture had been manipulated.
After studying the results, the team found that every answer given by those leaning left was smaller than those leaning right or standing straight upright. As an example, those leaning left gave estimates of the height of the Eiffel Tower that were 12 meters shorter on average than the other two groups.
The team found that our bodies actually have an impact our minds in ways that most of us are totally unaware of, and as a result the way we make decisions may be changed in strange and bizarre ways.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time USA Memory Champion and memory speaker.
Medical Press — Research suggests people underestimate numerical guesses when leaning left: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-12-people-underestimate-numerical-left.html