Synopsis from Goodreads: From the world’s leading expert on the new psychology of physical intelligence, or ‘embodied cognition’, here is the true story of how the body profoundly affects our thoughts and emotions, decisions and choices about everything from the people we like to the ways we work.
Sensation looks at the unconscious links between the incoming messages from our physical senses and our inner thought processes. Did you know that being exposed to fast food logos for less than a second can make you read faster? Or that holding a warm drink will make you behave more genially towards others? Or that the colour/s we choose to wear can influence how attractive we seem to others? These and many other interesting tidbits are presented engagingly and alongside experimental evidence in Thalma Lobel’s book. This is apparently the first time she has written for a lay-audience rather than a research journal but I wouldn’t have guessed from her accessible tone.
Unfortunately for Sensation and Thalma Lobel, I had already come across many of the ideas presented here in a book I read last year: David McRaney’s You Are Not So Smart. That book addresses cognitive bias more than Sensation (which focuses on embodied cognition) and Thalma Lobel’s book undoubtedly goes into far more depth about each point but there are overlaps nevertheless. Thus I was already aware of (for example) experiments proving that sports teams wearing red uniforms are perceived as more aggressive by bystanders and referees. I still learnt new facts from Sensation however, and enjoyed regaling my partner with them over the dinner table (a non-fiction book has succeeded in being interesting if it makes you want to share your new knowledge with others, and Sensation managed that).
Each chapter focuses on a particular sensory-related topic: weight, colours, temperature and so forth and first examines the metaphors we use around it; e.g. talking about people behaving “warmly” to each other, or “guilt weighing heavy on our shoulders”. The reader is then lead through the results of experiments proving that metaphors are (at least sometimes) literally true. At times I found the lists of example metaphors unnecessarily long and a little space-filling, and although as a keen reader I enjoyed the examination of language I would have liked these sections to have gone deeper, particularly around questions such as: do subconscious reactions like feeling inferior to people sitting higher than us influence us to use phrases like “she works one level up from me” or have these phases influenced our subconscious reactions? Do other languages apart from English use the same senses in their metaphors? And if not, could the same results be replicated in experiments with participants who spoke those languages? The chapters were brought to a close with suggestions of how knowledge of sensory input on human psychology could be put to practical use, many of which I found a little obvious – if you’ve just read about experiments proving that people perform better and find chores less onerous when smelling a pleasant odour it doesn’t take a huge leap to suggest to yourself that you might want to ensure a room smells nice before you sit down to write a job application in it.
My favourite chapter was the penultimate – “Turning on Lights Outside the Box: Embodying Metaphors” which was about creativity. Although I don’t think I’ll take up the suggestion that I should display logos of “creative companies” around my home to encourage my mind to generate more ideas next time I’m stuck writing a blog post I may well try imagining myself walking down a meandering path, or turning on the desk lamp to inspire a “light bulb” moment. Thalma Lobel also talks in this section about how “The structured environment of many schools may be limiting children’s capacity for creative thinking by placing a higher value on logic, facts and conformity” (page 203) which is an idea familiar to people like myself who follow an unschooling approach but is starting (thankfully) to gather mainstream attention also.
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All views are my own and I have not received any payment for this post.
Icon Books have kindly put aside five copies of Sensation for lucky readers of What Hannah Read. Here’s what to do if you’d like a chance to win one:
- Leave a comment here with your email address or Twitter username. This gives you one entry.
– If you tweet about the competition with a link to this blog, you will get a bonus entry! (Make sure you comment with your twitter username if you’re doing this.)
– The competition closes at midnight BST on the 16th September 2014.
– Some time shortly after the competition’s close I will pick the winners’ names at random (probably quite literally from a hat). I will then get in touch with the winners via email or Twitter to get your postal addresses which I will pass on to Icon Books so they can send you your copies.
This giveaway is open to everyone, everywhere!