Science-- there's something for everyone

Monday, January 18, 2010

Desirable objects are further than they appear.


In five related sets of experiments, Emily Balcetis from New York University and David Dunning from Cornell University tested how desire affects perception.

In the first set of experiments, researchers asked volunteers (half of whom had been eating salty pretzels) to estimate the distance to a water bottle. As a group, the thirstier subjects all thought the water was closer than did their unsalted counterparts.

In another set of experiments, volunteers were asked to toss a beanbag onto a gift card that was worth either $0 or $25. They threw the beanbag much farther if the card wasn’t worth anything. The $25 cards seemed to be closer.

All the experiments confirmed that estimates of physical proximity are affected by desire. The researchers suggest that our brains perceive desired objects as being closer in order to increase our motivation to go and get it.