Let’s consider the Wobble as persuasion play.
To manipulate ambivalence, we presented participants with a purported newspaper article (cf. van Harreveld et al., 2009) concerning a proposal to abolish minimum wages for young adults. In the ambivalent version of this article, the pros and cons of the proposal were discussed. In the univalent condition, only positive aspects of the proposal were discussed. The two articles were of similar length.
So, you randomly assign Other Guys to read an advocacy that either wobbles or runs straight. And they are standing on a Wii balance board while they read. Really. Read an article that either wobbles or doesn’t while you stand on a board that measures wobbling.
As expected, a repeated measures analysis of variance with valence as a between-subjects variable and phase as a within-subjects variable revealed a main effect of valence on the adjusted number of x-flips, F(1, 59) = 13.25, p = .001, ηp2 = .18. This means that participants who had read the ambivalent text moved more from side to side than did those who had not.
That’s a Medium+ Windowpane, about a 32/68 effect size, so you’d know who was reading what just by looking at the wobbling on the Wii board. I also left this out: After reading, the Other Guys had to think about the advocacy then lean to one side or the other on the board to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed. Results showed that everyone in both conditions did not wobble during the thinking phase. So. You wobble when you consider two sided advocacy, but stand still when you think about it. Wobble your thoughts and you wobble your body.
Now, let’s flip this around. We gave Other Guys ambivalent information and they wobbled. What happens if you reverse the order and make people wobble first?
The experimenter approached people in the park and asked if they would like to participate in an experiment concerning tai-chi movements and information processing. If a person agreed to participate, the experimenter handed him or her a clipboard holding the questionnaire. Next, the experimenter showed one of the three film clips (randomly chosen) on a mobile video device and instructed the participant to perform the movement shown, while filling out the questionnaire.
The clips showed a model in one of three movements: wobbling side to side, moving up and down, or holding still. While doing one of the three movements, the Other Guys then did that survey task.
To induce ambivalence, we created a questionnaire that instructed participants to think of a topic they felt ambivalent about. They were asked to write down their thoughts or feelings regarding this topic.
So, you are doing a “tai-chi” exercise that is just the cover story to get you to wobble from side to side, or move up and down, or hold still. While doing your “tai-chi” you think about something that makes you ambivalent and write down your thoughts and feelings. Everyone then self reports how ambivalent they felt.
As expected, a one-factor analysis of covariance with movement as a between-subjects factor, effort as a covariate, and experienced ambivalence as the dependent variable revealed a main effect of movement, F(3, 64) = 3.11, p = .05, ηp2 = .09. Post hoc tests revealed that participants moving from side to side experienced more ambivalence (M = 59, SD = 15) than did participants moving up and down (M = 52, SD = 18; p = .02) and participants standing still (M = 49, SD = 17; p = .07), although the latter difference was only marginally significant.
That eta squared estimate of 9% is a Medium Windowpane, about a 35/65 effect size, so just by looking at people doing their movement task, you could accurately predict their ambivalence. Wobble your body and you wobble your thoughts.
Thus we have nice experimental evidence that demonstrates a hydraulic relationship between the wobbling mind and body. Wobble either one and the other will wobble along with it. The researchers do not provide a following set of studies to understand why this wobbling relationship between mind and body occurs, leaving it as Future Research. The researchers also do not consider practical implications of this in detail.
I’ll take that leap on the assumption that this effect replicates and generalizes as it should given the methods and the existing literature on Embodiment. Wobbling is neither a good or bad thing, but rather, as always depends upon the Local. For example, you might be trying to close a sale and you observe the Other Guy literally wobbling in front of you which means you know Her thoughts are wobbling, too. What do you do?
Well, if you know the Other Guy is thinking about an alternative you are against (a competitor’s product or service, for example), encourage the wobbling! You want the Other Guy all stirred up with the pro’s and the con’s. People rarely resolve ambivalence in a clean and decisive way and are easily turned.
By contrast, if you know the Other Guy is thinking about you or your product or issue, you know that wobbling is a bad thing. Make the Other Guy stop as quickly as you can. Grab Her attention and make Her focus upon something you know She is clear on and that She likes. Make a very overt behavioral move yourself and stand up straight and still. She might model you.
Realize, too, that if the Other Guy is wobbling a lot, any decision or action may be easily reversible. Therefore, hit the TACT you seek as fast as you can. When the Other Guy wobbles, then for whatever reason the Other Guy goes the way you want, hit the TACT right then. Don’t let the wobbling start up again.
Consider a different kind of Local. You want to distract, confuse, or delay the Other Guys. Make Them wobble. You may recall a recent PB post on the effect of many choices during unimportant tasks. All those silly little options serve to destroy WATTage and trap the Other Guy in a maze of possibilities over trivial tasks. Wobbling has a similar effect. As long as people are wobbling they are not decisive, clear, goal-oriented. They are twitching and shifting and hemming and hawing and wasting their time and effort. Then you hit them with a Cue that points right at the TACT. Bang.
Let’s get out of here on the big picture. Embodiment research shows a fundamental persuasion hydraulic with the mind and the body as we’ve seen in numerous PB posts. Move the body to move the mind or the mind to move the body. Some of it may be hardwired and some of it simply conditioned with a lifetime of Ding-Dongs. Almost always Embodiment operates under the High WATT radar and Other Guys have little executive control over the process. You can maneuver the body to get the mind to hit a TACT. Just supply the Cue at the right time, baby.
Iris K. Schneider, Anita Eerland, Frenk van Harreveld, Mark Rotteveel, Joop van der Pligt, Nathan van der Stoep, and Rolf A. Zwaan. One Way and the Other: The Bidirectional Relationship Between Ambivalence and Body Movement. Psychological Science, first published on January 25, 2013
P.S. Or we could Wobble line dance (YouTube) instead!