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Soft assurance : coping with uncertainty through haptic sensations


Journal of Experimental Social Psychology


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

van Horen F;Mussweiler T

Publication Year



Uncertainty is an inescapable element of human life. But how do people deal with it? To date, most research has focused on the cognitive strategies people adopt to do so. In four experiments we examine, whether people may also use an alternative experiential route to cope with uncertainty. We demonstrate that (1) when faced with uncertainty, people seek soft haptic sensations (Experiments 1 and 2) and (2) that doing so is functional (Experiments 3 and 4). More specifically, we show that people shift their preference to objects with soft (i.e., soft-grip pen, soft candy) rather than hard properties (i.e., hard-grip pen, hard candy) when feeling uncertain. Furthermore, we show that holding something soft (i.e., a soft-grip pen, a soft cloth) as compared to something hard (i.e., a hard-grip pen, a hard cloth) reduces uncertainty on a subsequent ambiguous task and helps to shield against uncertainty in daily life by increasing tolerance toward uncertainty. Overall, this research reveals that humans may use their oldest and most fundamental sense – touch – as a basic experiential device to cope with uncertainty.


Uncertainty; Touch; Softness; Haptic sensations; Coping

Available on ECCH


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