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What you touch is what you are: Does touch technology enhance learning and identification through perceived ownership?

WorkgroupKnowledge Construction Lab
FundingLeibniz-WissenschaftsCampus “Cognitive Interfaces”
Project description

In this project there were two research questions: First, it was investigated how learning in a knowledge domain and attitudes can be affected by touch-based interactions with symbolic representations of that knowledge domain. Second, it was tested to what extend newly-associated (compared to established) self-symbols influence attention and affect. Both foci contribute to a better understanding of how to design digital learning processes.

The act of touching an object has previously been shown to increase liking and worth, and to elicit the feeling of ownership. There was, however, only little research on effects of touching digital objects. In the current project, we hypothesized that mediated touch has similar effects on human cognition as physical touch. In several studies using different outcomes (e.g., perceived ownership, recall, recognition, social identification), there were, however, no differences between Touch (virtual and real) and non-Touch interactions. Taken together, the evidence did not support the assumption that learning and relations to objects or groups benefit from touch-interactions.

The second research line, however, demonstrated that formerly neutral symbols (e.g., a circle) can be associated to the self. In a series of studies using established experimental paradigms to assess different information processes, it was robustly found that self-association facilitates attention processes, but only for established self-symbols: whereas established self-associated symbols (e.g., the word “I”) guide our attention, newly self-associated symbols are not prioritized compared to stranger-associated symbols. In a second set of studies that tested affective biases in the implicit association test (IAT), it was, however, found that both established and newly associated self-symbols benefit from a positive bias in valence compared to stranger-associated symbols. Taken together, the findings demonstrate that self-associations can be established quickly and flexibly and have a potential to change interactions in digital environments.


Ann-Katrin Wesslein and Gabriela Orellana Corrales, Institute for Psychology, University of Tübingen


Orellana Corrales, G., Matschke, C., Schäfer, S., & Wesslein, A.-K. (2022). Does an experimentally induced self-association elicit affective self-prioritisation? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 76(6), 1379-1390. request document

Orellana Corrales, G., Matschke, C., & Wesslein, A.-K. (2021). The impact of newly self-associated pictorial and letter-based stimuli in attention holding. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 83(7), 2729-2743. request document

Orellana Corrales, G., Matschke, C., & Wesslein, A.-K. (2020). Does self-associating a geometric shape immediately cause attentional prioritization? Comparing familiar versus recently self-associated stimuli in the dot-probe task. Experimental Psychology, 67(6), 335-348.


Dr. Christina Matschke Dr. Christina Matschke
Tel.: +49 7071 979-201