Leaning to the Left

November 8, 2011

Brit Trogen

Today's bit of weird science comes to you courtesy of the Netherlands, and researchers at Erasmus University Rotterdam.



Do you lean to the left? If so, you should probably stop, according to this study on body posture and decision making, due out in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science. At least, if you want to make accurate decisions.


In this study, participants stood on a Wii balance board that imperceptibly manipulated their posture, either to the left, right, or upright, all while showing them a screen that made it seem like they were standing perfectly straight. In the meantime, they were asked to answer questions of quantity, like the height of the Eiffel tower or the number of grandchildren of Queen Beatrix (it's a Netherlands thing). Bizarrely, people routinely gave smaller estimates to the questions when leaning to the left than they did when leaning to the right or standing upright.


People who lean to the left underestimate??? There's a metaphor here... but let's not think about it. Body posture was not able to overwrite actual knowledge (ie. if you were already aware of the distance to the moon), only nudge estimates in one direction. But it's the outcome of these faulty estimates, and the decisions that might arise from them, that are of most interest to the researchers. 


Then again, Erasmus University Rotterdam sounds made up... Perhaps it's all a right-leaning plot?



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