Thinking about language

Our thinking bodies

Popup Embodied cognition is a hot new field that considers how abstract concepts like "power," "time," and "goodness" are processed not just in our brains, but also by our bodies.

The findings have broad implications for all forms of communications and marketing. For example, a study at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, showed that whether someone's photo is positioned at the top of a screen or at the bottom affects how powerful and attractive he or she is perceived to be by the opposite sex.

When people think of power differences, they literally think of spatial differences too. Powerful people are thought to be those who stay "at the top," while the less powerful are "below."

In the Gettysburg study, men were 1.8 times more likely to find the same woman attractive if her photo appeared at the bottom of the screen rather than at the top. Women were 1.5 times more likely to find men attractive if their photo appeared at the top. This may help explain why CEOs ten to be tall and why wives are taller than their husbands in only one out of 750 married couples.

The New York Times reports on a study in the journal Psychological Science that shows that people actually lean forward when thinking of the future and lean back when pondering the past.

Others have discovered that the smell of Windex can prompt people to donate more to charity.  (No, Windex didn't sponsor the study.  You can read it here.)  Books we are told are "important" seem to weigh more than other books of the same size.

It seems that our figurative language (e.g., "the stain of sin") has roots in the way our body actually processes information.

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