What's the Latest Development?
New research out of the University of Waterloo, in Canada, suggests that our emotional states are intimately tied to our physical surroundings to a much greater extent than previously thought. In an experiment, individuals who sat at a wobbly chair and table predicted that celebrity couples like Barack and Michelle Obama, David and Victoria Beckham, and Jay-Z and Beyoncé were more likely to dissolve than people evaluating the same relationships but using stable furniture. When asked to describe what values they admire in a relationship, individuals sat at wobbly furniture prioritized stability-promoting traits, like reliability, over instability-promoting traits, like spontaneity, to a greater extent than those sat at stable furniture.
What's the Big Idea?
In the experiment, even a small amount of wobbliness in the environment seemed to prompt people to cling to something that would provide emotional stability. "Experiments conducted over the past few years have revealed that giving someone an icy drink at a party leads him to believe he is getting the cold shoulder from fellow guests, that handing over a warm drink gives people a sense of warmth from others, and—most astonishingly—that putting potential voters in chairs which lean slightly to the left causes them to become more agreeable towards policies associated with the left of the political spectrum." We have long understood that people's decisions are determined by circumstances, but we are beginning to see just how influential these seemingly incidental circumstances are.
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