Reach For What You Like: The Body's Role in Shaping Preferences

Emotion Review 1 (2):140-150 (2009)
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The position of individuals' bodies (e.g., holding a pencil in the mouth in a way that either facilitates or inhibits smiling musculature) can influence their emotional reactions to the stimuli they encounter, and can even impact their explicit preferences for one item over another. In this article we begin by reviewing the literature demonstrating these effects, explore mechanisms to explain this body-preference link, and introduce new work from our lab that asks whether one's bodily or motor experiences might also shape preferences in situations where the body is not contorted in a particular position, or when there is no intention to act. Such work suggests that one consequence of perceiving an object is the automatic and covert motor simulation of acting on this object. This, in turn, provides individuals with information about how easy or hard this action would be. 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



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