The Loh Down On Science

Left-Leaning Research

Remember, from math class, the number line? Smaller numbers on the left, bigger ones on the right?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying don't worry, I won't ask you about absolute value.

But Dutch psychologist Anita Eerland might. She suspects people internalize the number line both mentally and physically.

So she and colleagues had subjects stand on a Wii balance board while answering questions projected on a screen. The questions? All estimating quantities: Height of the Eiffel Tower. Average lifespan of a parrot. Everyday stuff.

While subjects were answering, the team tilted the Wii board subtly left or right.

So no one suspected the tilt, they were told to maintain good posture as indicated by the screen--only it was rigged so people always seemed upright.

Turns out when leaning left, people's estimates were always smaller than when upright or leaning right.

Oddly, there was no difference between upright and right-leaning estimates. Eerland thinks that may be because everyone was right-handed. So the next study? With lefties.

That's what I call left-leaning research!



The Loh Down on Science, online, at lohdown.org. Produced by 89.3 KPCC and the California Institute of Technology, and made possible by TIAA-CREF.

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