Poster C25, Sunday, March 26, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Incidental haptic sensations influence judgment of crimes: neural underpinnings of embodied cognitions
Michael Schaefer1, Claudia Denke2, Claudia Spies2, Andreas Heinz2, Andreas Ströhle2, Lillia Cherkasskiy3, Hyunjin Song4, John Bargh3; 1Medical School Berlin, Germany, 2Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany, 3Yale University, CT, USA, 4Arizona Christian University, AZ, USA
Many extralegal factors that may influence judicial outcomes have been discussed. Here we investigated the experience of incident haptic sensations on the harshness of sentences recommended by judges and juries. Based on recent theories of embodied cognitions, which claim that cognitive representations are structured by metaphorical mappings from sensory experience, we hypothesized that tactile priming with hard objects would produce recommendation of harder punishments. Furthermore, the theory of embodiment predicts that this effect should be based on sensorimotor brain activation during the judging process. In order to test this assumption we presented participants scenarios that described various crimes while scanning their brain activity with fMRI. After each scenario participants were asked to rate how strong they would sentence the delinquents. Before reading the scenario the participants were primed either with a hard or a soft object (or not primed at all). Results revealed that hard priming led participants to recommend harder punishments. This effect was accompanied by an involvement of somatosensory brain areas during the judging phase (only when being primed with a hard object before). The results are in line with the simulation assumptions of the theory of embodiment and propose a central role of the sensorimotor cortices for embodied metaphors. We conclude that incidental tactile experiences may influence our abstract cognitions and even how hard we are on crimes.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions