Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2018

Department 1



Previous research has shown that the desirability of an object influences perceived distance from the object, such that desirable objects are perceived as closer than objects that are not desirable (Balcetis & Dunning, 2010). It has also been suggested that metaphors reflect how our knowledge is represented; so, for example, making the head or heart more salient produces characteristics commonly associated with those body parts (i.e., emotionality for the heart, rationality for the head) (Fetterman & Robinson, 2013). The current study examined the effects of head or heart salience and object desirability on distance perception. We hypothesized that, since common idioms relate the heart to desirability, salience of the heart would cause desirable objects to be perceived as closer than would salience of the head, but there would be no difference between the head and heart conditions when the object was neutral. To test this hypothesis, we conducted two experiments in which participants had their attention drawn to their head or their heart by placing their hand there while making an action-based (haptic) measure of distance to an object. After finding no significant results in Experiment 1, in Experiment 2 a verbal measure of distance perception was added and participants completed a two-minute filler task while touching the assigned body part to strengthen the body part salience effect before estimating distance. Besides replicating Proffitt’s 2006 finding that haptic estimates of environmental features are more accurate than verbal estimates, we found no significant results in Experiment 2.


Written for Psych 315: Advanced Lab in Thinking and Cognition.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.