Simulating Metaphors

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Science  17 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6168, pp. 230-231
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6168.230-d

Embodied cognition refers to the association of abstract concepts, such as interpersonal warmth, with concrete sensations, such as physical warmth; psychologists have begun to explore how the abstract and the concrete are linked. A bidirectional conduit would imply that individuals who feel warmer would offer more positive judgments of others and those who are lonely would feel colder. Another view is that sensory processes can influence cognitive ones, but not the other way around. Slepian and Ambady taught people contrasting embodied metaphors: For the first group, past history was described as being weightier than present experience, whereas for the second group, the decisions of the present were described as carrying more weight than those of the past. They found that the first group rated old books as heavier than the same books camouflaged with a new dust jacket, whereas the pattern reversed for the other group. Furthermore, these differences were only observed when the books were actually touched, leading the authors to propose that sensorimotor simulation of a learned metaphor creates the potential for concepts to influence sensations.

Cognition 130, 309 (2014).

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