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Keeping your goals close

We view things we want as being physically closer to us than they actually are…

Writing in Psychological Sciences, researchers from New York University and Cornell University say they’ve demonstrated that our desires influence how we see our environments. According to the new research, we view things we want as being physically closer to us than they actually are. The authors say this bias exists to encourage us to pursue things that we want by making them appear close. When we see a goal as being close to us (literally within our reach), it motivates us to keep on going to successfully attain it.

During the study, participants estimated how far a water bottle was from where they were sitting. Half of the volunteers were allowed to drink water before the experiment, while the others ate salty pretzels, thus becoming very thirsty. The results showed that the thirsty volunteers estimated the water as being closer to them than volunteers who drank water earlier.

Our desire for certain objects may also result in behavioral changes. In a separate experiment, volunteers tossed a beanbag towards a gift card (worth either $25 or $0) on the floor, winning the card if the beanbag landed on it. Interestingly, the volunteers threw the beanbag much farther if the gift card was worth $0 than if it was worth $25 — that is, they underthrew the beanbag when attempting to win a $25 gift card, because they viewed that gift card as being closer to them.

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