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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 we investigate the potential of touch-based technology (e.g., tablets, smart phones) to affect our thoughts and preferences. More specifically, we investigate how the success in learning domains as well as social integration into new groups can be affected by touch-based interaction with symbolic representations of the domain / group.

The act of touching an object has previously been shown to increase liking and worth, and to elicit the feeling of ownership. There is, however, only little research on effects of touching digital objects. In the current project, we hypothesize that mediated touch has similar effects on human cognition as physical touch. In detail, we aim to investigate whether touch on an interface can specifically be used to facilitate a newcomer’s relation to a learning domain or a social group. That is, we aim to beneficially shape an individual’s relation to a domain or group.

Building on previous research, in the current project we will first investigate whether touch-based interactions with symbols of knowledge domains and social groups facilitate the feeling of ownership and increase liking. In several systematic studies we will compare touch-based interaction with alternative ways to interact digitally with a domain / group to shed light on specific effects of touch. Moreover, based on the finding that vicarious contact increases the attitudes to social groups, the positive effect of touch-based interaction is assumed to be especially pronounced if the touch-technology allows interactions including symbols of the self. We will conduct laboratory studies as well as field studies both in the educational and social context to test these effects. Taken together, in the current project we aim to identify the potential of touch-based interfaces for learning and social integration, and to allow recommendations for applications that enable the support of learning and integration, independently of verbal information.


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