Embodiment

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Embodied Persuasion

One of the strangest effects in persuasion is the Embodiment Effect.  If I can get you to move your body – gestures, postures, extensions, curls, head bobbing – I can move your attitudes.  At first glance, this seems both obvious and peculiar.  Obvious because if you change somebody’s attitude you should see it in their body – the way they will lean into something they now like, lean away from what they dislike.  But, peculiar because how can mere body movement cause attitude change?  Sure, you think your way into a new attitude then move your body, but move your body first to create a new attitude?

Yet this Embodiment Effect has been demonstrated numerous times.  Here’s a quick list.

Standing or Reclining while listening to persuasive Arguments.  People reclining go High WATT and discriminate Argument Quality while people standing go Low WATT and don’t.  Hey, we’re test marketing these new headphones under daily life conditions and we’d like you try them on while standing (or reclining; randomly assigned) and listen to a radio broadcast (that just happens to have an editorial in the middle of the music).

Head Nodding or Shaking while listening to persuasive Arguments.  People nodding tend to form positive attitudes while people shaking their head form negative attitudes.  Hey, we’re test marketing these new headphones under daily life conditions and we’d like you to try them while exercising like jogging, so just simulate the movement by nodding (or shaking; randomly assigned) your head like your jogging and listen to a radio broadcast (that just happens to have an editorial in the middle of the music).

Flexing or Extending your palms on a table while viewing Chinese ideographs.  To flex, just put your palms underneath a table and lightly press up while watching these symbols you don’t understand.  To extend, just put your palms on top of a table and lightly push down while watching these symbols you don’t understand.  Later you see a list of many different Chinese ideographs (some previously viewed, some new) and guess what?  If you flexed (curling movement toward yourself) you like familiar ideographs, but if you extended (movement pushing away from yourself) you dislike familiar ideographs.  (And, if you’ve got objections, buts, and ifs, go read the original research.  They used controls like they were testing nuclear devices on this one, baby, precisely because they knew people like you would object with buts and ifs.)

Holding a pen with your Teeth or your Lips while watching cartoons.  Hey, try it yourself right now.  Feel the difference in your facial muscles.  If you hold it with your Teeth you are already making a slight smiling move with your facial muscles while if you are holding it with your Lips, you are making a pursing move that both suppresses smiling and indicates slight disgust or disapproval.  Guess what?  Cartoons are funnier if you do the Teeth Grip versus the Lip Lock.