Desire influences visual perception

Being Human

Yeah like we didn’t know that already! Any man in the world will confirm that. But it’s even more quantifiable than you might think. We’re talking about actual distances to objects here. Sexy girls may be further away than they appear.

The participants who had been given pretzels to eat during the experiment reported feeling thirstier than those who drank the water, as would be expected. They also rated the bottle of water as being more desirable, and estimated the distance between themselves and the bottle to be smaller than did the quenched participants. Their state of thirst had influenced their perception of distance, such that the water bottle was perceived to be closer than it actually was.

That the thirsty participants found the bottle of water to be more desirable is not at all surprising – water will quench their thirst, and therefore has immediate physiological benefits. But how about objects that are desirable because of their social value? To investigate this, Balcetis and Dunning asked another set of students to estimate their distance from a $100 bill. One group was told that they could win the money in a simple card game; the other was told that the bill belonged to the experimenter. In this case, the first group find the money more desirable than the first. Again, both groups were asked to estimate their distance from the object in question and again, those who had been told they could win the $100 bill reported it as being closer than those who were told it belonged to the experimenter.

The researchers then asked a third set of participants to complete a survey, and told that it had been designed to assess their sense of humour. Each then watched as their response was graded; half of them were told that their sense of humour was “above average”, and the other half were told that theirs was “below average”. The surveys were then clipped to a stand, and each participant was asked to estimate how far away it was. Those given positive feedback estimated the stand to be closer than those negative feedback.

A perceptual test which did not require a numerical response was then performed. Participants were asked to throw a small rubber bean bag towards a gift voucher placed on the floor in front of them, and told that the person whose toss landed closest to the voucher would win it. One group was told that the voucher had a value of $25, thus making it desirable to them, while the other was led to believe that it was worthless. This experiment confirmed the earlier ones – those participants who believed the voucher was worth something perceived it to be nearer, and consequently underthrew the bean bag so that it fell short of the target.

Source: NeuroPhilosophy

This must have really annoyed hungry hunters.

Ed Dowding

Ed Dowding

Founder, strategist, writer, gadfly, TED talker, world-record holder, and (foolishly) reality-TV farmer. DOES: Innovation, Product, Advocacy THINKS: Regenerative Systems, Institution design, 300 year horizons

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