Soft assurance: Coping with uncertainty through haptic sensations

F. Van Horen, T. Mussweiler

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-80
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue numberSeptember
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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