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Surprising Science

We May Choose an Object Because It’s Easier to Pick Up

The design of a product — how easy it is to pick up and hold — may influence our choices in the grocery store more than we think.

The mind may not be the sole dictator of our desires. In fact, the body may play an active role in our decision-making process, according to Sian Beilock, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, in her new book How the Body Knows Its Mind.

NPR‘s Marc Silver writes on the research that has helped influence her conclusions about how our bodies affect our brains — particularly how we choose to act on an object. To test this, a team of researchers invited 15 students — a pretty small group — to choose the better of two kitchen utensils. For instance, researchers would place a spatula and a spoon in different positions in front of the students and see which one they picked. The researchers asked each participant to do this task a total of 16 times — choose the object they liked more.

The results, published in the journal Emotion Review, showed that 63 percent of the time participants would reach for whichever object was easiest to pick up. The researchers write:

“It transpires that we like to do what is easy, and we also prefer objects that are easier to act on. The notion that judgments of object likeability are driven by motoric information furthers embodied cognition theories by demonstrating that even our preferences are grounded in action.”

Silver notes in his own write-up how this could influence the designs of soda bottles — to appeal to our body’s desire to choose what’s easier to pick up and hold. For instance, back in 2008, Coca-Cola redesigned its two-liter bottle to make it curvier and, thus, easier to hold. A representative claimed it tested well among groups, and for good reason, according to Beilock’s research. The alteration allowed the company to outsell its rival, Pepsi, in this size category because of the change.

So, next time you’re at the grocery store, it may be fun to take note of the design of food containers.

Read more at NPR.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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