Look But Don’t Touch!

by Ron Haynes

In the Journal of Judgment and Decision Making, I found an article about the power of touch, but probably not the kind of touch you’re thinking of. It’s the kind of touch a toddler has when he says, “MINE, MINE, MINE!” According to the Journal, there is a part in all of us that never really grows up.

Researchers tested how simply holding an item before buying it affects how much people are willing to pay for it. A simple experiment with an inexpensive coffee mug revealed that in many cases, simply holding the mug for a few seconds created an attachment that led people to pay more for the item. Those who held the mug longer than a few seconds felt not only more compelled to outbid others in an auction setting, but they were also more willing to bid more than the retail price for that item.

“The amazing part of this study is that people can become almost immediately attached to something as insignificant as a mug,” said study author James Wolf. “By simply touching the mug and feeling it in their hands, many people begin to feel like the mug is, in fact, their mug. Once they begin to feel it is theirs, they are motivated to keep it and willing to go to greater lengths to do so. Strong feelings of ownership can begin in as little as 30 seconds after initial contact.

“The strength of this attachment seems to increase with greater physical contact. And one explanation is loss aversion; that is, the longer people have an object, the stronger their attachment and their eagerness to keep it. People become attached and they are willing to pay much more to avoid losing that object,” according to study co-author, Waleed Muhanna.

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What does this mean for me?

One of the greatest sales trainers of all time, Zig Ziglar, calls this his “Puppy Dog Close.” He is referring to the pet store owner who allows a family to take a puppy home for a day or so, to “see how they like him.” Of course, once the little pup is in the home, the kids will never allow Dad to take him back!

  • Car dealers use the “Touch it hold it, feel it” close all the time. Why? They know that if you get behind the wheel and take it for a drive, you will probably begin to “own” the car in your mind. Once you hit that spot, you’ll do almost anything (including bust the budget) and sign almost anything to keep it.
  • Clothing stores allow you to try things on in their dressing rooms. Why? NOT so you can see how they fit, but so that you will see yourself wearing them.
  • Electronics stores allow you to listen to music and watch video snippets. Why? Once you wear those headphones or watch that HDTV, there’s a better chance you’ll buy.
  • Real estate agents prefer to show homes that have furniture in them. Why? So you will mentally begin placing your furniture in that home.
  • Brookstone (a mall retailer) will let you try out their wares in the store. Why? So you’ll begin to own them in your mind.

How do we fight it?

First, stay out of the mall and away from the car dealers! But if you’re there, look, but don’t touch. Like Momma said, “Keep your hands to yourself!”

Hands that are kept in your pockets always know where the cash is!

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About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Yea that puppy dog close really works – I have fallen for that a few times, and it really is hard to take _____ back after having it for a couple days

Tammy Brackett

I create and sell handmade items online. I am curious to know how I could apply the ‘touch it, feel it, own it’ principles. Maybe a well worded bio would substitute for touching the item. A vivid description? I do create stories to go along with my wares. Thanks for raising a very valid issue!


Hmm, that’s a real challenge. I once read that intangibles were best sold using emotional language. Think of life insurance and how the agent will use emotional language about taking care of family members, children, or charities by buying a policy. What you sell isn’t technically an intangible, but until it arrives at your customer’s doorstep, they can’t touch it.

Maybe some emotion evoking language, a vivid description, and testimonials?


I had to laugh about the bit of trying clothes on. Five minutes in the change room mean that I definitely don’t buy the clothes I was going to!

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