SENSATION by Thalma Lobel


The New Science of Physical Intelligence
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Examination of how new experiments are revealing how we are “unconsciously influenced in the most amazing ways by the physical experiences our senses convey.”

In 2005, Lobel (Psychological Science/Tel Aviv Univ.) experienced an unsettling bout of sensory deprivation on a vacation in Guatemala when she awakened in a jungle cottage to absolute silence and pitch-black darkness. She explains that this experience, along with a study she discovered in 2008 in Science magazine, led to her decision to investigate “research into the association between body and mind…and the theory of embodied cognition.” The Science study reported on experiments in which subjects’ “thoughts, perceptions and judgments” were influenced by whether they were holding a warm or cold cup of coffee. Lobel reports on experimental data showing that, unconsciously—in the case of the coffee experiment, the subject was casually asked to hold the experimenter's coffee for a moment—we are influenced subliminally by fleeting sensations—e.g., warmth versus coldness, roughness or smoothness, differences in the color spectrum. Metaphorically, we describe ourselves as weighed down by troubles or weighty decisions, but experimental data shows that we are also impressed by weightiness. The author cites one experiment in which participants evaluated an identical resume. Half of the group was shown it affixed to a light clipboard and the other to one weighing four times as much. “Those who received the heavy clipboard” gave the candidate a higher rating. Similarly, red is found to be sexy, and height correlates to dominance. Metaphors are “more than just figures of speech,” writes the author. They “play an important role in our understanding of abstract concepts.”

An intriguing look at how our sensory perceptions affect our language and ability to understand abstract concepts but can also sway judgment. Shelve alongside Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Ariely and others in the pop-psych realm.

Pub Date: April 29th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4516-9913-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2014


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