Speaker: Prof Norbert Schwarz

Title: Embodiment in judgment and decision making: Of fishy smells, dirty hands, and sticky luck

Date: Thursday October 29, 12-1 pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Recent psychological research shows that complex cognitive processes are grounded in evolutionarily older sensory processes in ways that are often reflected in metaphors. As a result, incidental sensory experiences can profoundly affect judgment and decision making. For example, incidental fishy smells can undermine trust, reduce investment in economic cooperation games, and improve critical reasoning; conversely, socially induced suspicion enhances the sensory perception of fishy smells. Moral transgressions leave a “dirty” feeling and induce a desire to clean; conversely, physical cleansings can remove traces of the past, metaphorically “wiping the slate clean”. Cleaning one’s hands with an antiseptic wipe (but not a moisturizing wipe) can metaphorically remove those traces, resulting in less doubt about past decisions; reduced cognitive dissonance; less influence of recent streaks of good or bad luck on current risk taking; and a reduced impact of sunk cost. I review select findings from my lab and discuss their implications for the conceptualization of decision processes.

About the Speaker:

Professor Norbert Schwarz is Provost Professor of Psychology and Marketing at University of Southern California. His research explores how people make sense of the world in which they live and how their decisions are shaped by subtle contextual influences. His theoretical approach emphasizes the socially situated and embodied nature of cognition and the role of feelings and subjective experiences in judgment and decision making, in different domains, including public opinion, consumer behavior, well-being, and the psychology of self-report. He has won numerous awards in an outstanding career that spans more than three decades, including the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize of the German Department of Science and Education for early career contributions; the Wilhelm Wundt-William James Award of the American Psychological Foundation and European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations; the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award of the Society for Consumer Psychology; and the Donald T. Campbell Award of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. His publications include 20 books and some 400 journal articles and chapters, which have been cited more than 52,000 times (H = 105, Google Scholar, June 2015).

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