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Dialing the Numbers of Love on Your Cell Can Change How You Feel

Dialing Certain Numbers on Your Cell Can Change How You Feel A German psychological scientist reports that by typing the numbers that correspond to the letters in a word like “love,” we can activate the meaning of that word in our minds.

The implications are that use of cellphones, and specifically texting, have become imprinted in our brain.

Results of the study are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

In the study, Dr. Sascha Topolinski and his students at the University of Würzburg created a list of German words that can be typed on a cellphone keypad without typing the same digit twice in a row.

Also, each number combination could spell only one word.

For one experiment, Topolinski used a set of number sequences that correspond to positive words, like 54323 (“liebe” – love) and 373863 (“freund” – friend), and a set for negative words, like 7245346 (“schleim” – slime) and 26478 (“angst” – fear). In English-speaking countries, 143 is popularly used to express love — with the numbers representing the number of letters in the words, “I love you.”

Volunteers were handed a cellphone with stickers over the buttons so they could only see the numbers, not the corresponding letters, and were told to type the number sequences.

After typing each one, they rated how pleasant it had been to dial the number on the phone. Volunteers believed they were participating in a study on ergonomics—in the debriefing afterward, none had any idea that the numbers might relate to words.

On average, volunteers preferred dialing numbers that related to positive words over those related to negative words. Merely dialing the numbers that corresponded to those letters—not even pushing them multiple times, as you’d usually do to text words on a 10-digit keypad—was enough to activate the concepts in their minds.

This induction of concepts also occurred in another group of volunteers who were asked to dial phone numbers and then identify words on a computer screen immediately afterwards. Volunteers were able to identify words that were implied by the preceding phone number more quickly than words that were had nothing to do with the preceding number sequence.

Topolinski relates these findings to a psychology concept called “embodiment”—the idea that certain body movements can make you think about related ideas. Clenching a fist makes people think about power, for example, and holding a heavy clipboard makes them think something is important.

“But this is a new door in embodiment research,” Topolinski says.

“Participants always did some finger movements. They just typed numbers in the cell phone. But I could induce ’slime’ or ‘love’—any meaning. This was a kind of a motor cipher that you can encode into the muscle system and use to induce a variety of ideas in participants.”

The work has practical implications, too. In another experiment, Topolinski had volunteers type numbers that were supposed to go with specific types of businesses; a word that implied the German word for “jewelry” for a jeweler, or “apartment” for a rental office.

After dialing the phone number and hearing an answering machine message, volunteers rated the business on its attractiveness. When the number matched the business, volunteers gave the business a higher rating than when they were mismatched; for example, a number for “wealth” for a financial counsel.

Business owners could take this effect into mind when choosing a phone number, Topolinski says.

For example, “if you are a lawyer, try to get a phone number which implies the word ‘justice,’ or if you have a donation hotline, include the sequence 4483 for ‘give.’”

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Dialing the Numbers of Love on Your Cell Can Change How You Feel

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Dialing the Numbers of Love on Your Cell Can Change How You Feel. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 17 Feb 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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