Do Our Senses Make Sense?

We are already finished our second week of fall semester and I can already feel the physical, mental, and emotional drain from the stress and pressure of classes. I don’t want to be mistaken, I am super excited to be back and working, however, I cannot help but feel—like physically feel—how these external forces are affecting me. When I look at my schedule and see how many assignments are due within the next week, I can literally feel the weight of stress on my shoulders as if it was compressing me. Also, no matter what the weather is like—hot or cold—I feel much more relaxed and at peace when I have a hot cup of coffee in my hand.


So naturally I questioned, “Can my senses be affected by external forces—that I am either aware of or not—that can in turn change my perspective?” I was searching online if this was a possible explanation for my physically responses and found a book called Sensation: The New Science of Physical Intelligence by Professor Thalma Lobel that explores how colors, tactile sensations, scents, tastes, and visual perspectives significantly influence us, without us even realizing. So, in short, the answer to my question was yes, but my curiosity was peaked and I wanted to see what other things were affecting my perspective and even my decision making process.


Personally, I think I am most in tune with my sense of touch and sight—I have always been told I was touchy and I thoroughly enjoy the visual stimulation of art and color—so I decided to look through those chapters.


Researchers set up an experiment with two groups of participants and asked them to rate a fictional person presented to them as skillful, intelligent, determined, practical, industrious, and cautious on several other characteristics. However, right before the participant answered, the researchers asked for them to hold their cup of coffee for a moment while the researcher made a quick note—half were handed a warm cup of coffee and the other half an iced coffee. They found that participants described the fictional person similar to the drink that they were asked to hold. So those holding the hot cup of coffee said that the personal also seemed caring and generous (an overall warm personality), while those holding the cold cup said the person seemed selfish and antisocial (a generally cold personality). The only manipulated variable was the temperature of the cup they were holding. That warm sensation of touch relaxes us and makes us feel at ease, so when we meet new people—or even old friends—we see them as friendlier and more pleasant to around. With that in mind, I now try to tackle any situation that I feel might present some sort of distaste with a warm cup of tea in my hand.


The portion regarding color perception was framed around sexual attraction and if certain colors made someone more attractive. I always believed that someone could look nicer if they were wearing a color that suited them based on their skin tone or hair color, but I was skeptical about whether or not just the color could enhance attraction. In their study, men were shown pictures of the exact same woman, but in different color blouses (red, green, blue, and grey).  Consistently, the men rated the picture of the woman in the red blouse as sexier and more attractive. They also reported that they would most likely spend more money on the woman wearing red if they went on a date. The key point to note though is that the woman wasn’t perceived to be more intelligent or kind, just more alluring. Taking mote of little things like that could be vital to quick yet highly selective interactions, such as dating or interviewing.


I did not want to dive deeply into the other senses mostly because I like the mystery of not knowing how things may or may not be influencing me—alsoI might look into them for a later blog. But for now, knowing what is directly influencing my senses will allow me to better manage my stress and workload…At least for the time being.


Winch, Guy. “How Mastering All 5 Sense Can Get You What You Want.” Psychology Today, 1 May 2014. Web. 3 September 2014. <>


Lobel, Thalma. The New Science of Physical Intelligence. Atria Books, 2014. Print

2 thoughts on “Do Our Senses Make Sense?

  1. Emily Dianne Goodrich

    I think that your example of the girl in the red dress made man correlate that to being “Sexier” is a common yet always fascinating study to refer to. I believe that with the same percentage of our brain we are using, it is interesting how in touch and creative our brains can react and function to. In a religion class, my professor had a philosophy that in the world of science, the Western Hemisphere was far superior; however when it came to understanding the human mind, the Eastern Hemisphere has studies that astounded people. Although them might seem strange, I’d like to share my research with you and see if maybe this correlates in a way to what you are saying to your “physical exhaustion” from these few weeks of school.

    There is a finding called Reflexology. In this theory of study, some health officials have created a chart of a foot and where your body fits on this foot. It is much easier to understand by looking at this particular website:
    What it is generally saying is that if a particular part of your body hurts, there is a place on your foot where if attended to, can actually help where your pain is.

    I’d be interested to know if you think this sort of theory can apply to your idea of how in touch we are with our bodies and possibly move you into a direction of how much our body truly responds to what is around us.
    Looking forward to your next blog/comment!

  2. Xiaotong Wang

    After reading this article, I realized that there’s a big problem lying in my personality that I don’t used to treat people welcomingly when we firsht met! maybe because I’m a little shy, but now, I think it’s the time to do some change,you know, to give people a cup or warm tea. And technically, the examples you use in the article to prove your point is very persuasive, they have the dependent variable-like the temperture of the coffee cups, and the difference of them make the different independent variable, and showed us clearly the relationship between sence and outside influences. And besides the sence you talked about, there’s one more sence that can make influence to our mood-the smell. Like me, the smell of new cut grassland can really make me feel comfortable, and for my roomy, it’s the smell of chocolate. Is there any relation between those two outside sence?

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