Close contact with someone you see as immoral or unsuccessful can taint how you feel about yourself, finds strange new research from Loyola University.
After sitting in chairs they learned had once used by office-supply thieves, people reported feeling 24 percent more guilt than their counterparts who knew nothing about the seats' old occupants. The results were similar after people shook hands with a guy they later learned was a liar.

The study authors call this "psychological contagion." Put simply, you believe a person's essence -- good or bad -- rubs off on the objects he comes into contact with, and so can be passed on to others, the research suggests. Consider this similar experiment: When people were told a putter was once used by a pro golfer, they drained 38 percent more putts than those who had no knowledge of the club's past owner.

It's not clear why people think objects can be polluted in this way. But dozens of experiments have shown this type of "magical thinking" is widespread, the study authors say.
Why should you care? If you're moved to a desk once occupied by a guy who was fired, knowing about it could actually lead you to feel less confident about your own performance, the research suggests. And if your buddy who always scores lets you borrow his "lucky shirt," you may feel better about your chances with women, which in turn could increase your success.

So whether it's a chair, handshake, or lucky shirt, you'd be wise to seek out people and objects you want to emulate -- and steer clear of stuff stained by failure, the study implies.
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