30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
Thoughts & Language
Are you managing to grasp the ideas in this book? I don’t mean are you literally holding them in your hand. I was speaking metaphorically about your comprehension. This use of physical metaphor to discuss abstract concepts is something we do a lot — we speak of employees climbing up the career ladder, of meetings being pushed forward, of weighty arguments and heated debates. The theory of embodied cognition claims that we do this because our thoughts are rooted in the physical, and in particular in our bodies. Supporting this idea is research showing how the physical world can influence our thoughts. Washing our hands makes us harsher moral judges. Placing marbles onto a higher shelf, rather than a lower one, makes it easier for people to recall positive stories. And the causal direction can run the other way too, such that our thoughts can affect our perception. Students told that a book was vital to their curriculum subsequently estimated that it was heavier than students told that the book was irrelevant. The strongest advocate for the importance of metaphor is the linguist George Lakoff. He believes we are only able to understand abstract concepts though our use of metaphor.
We think about abstract concepts, such as time and space, in terms of physical metaphors; in turn, physical sensations can affect our thoughts and beliefs.
Findings in embodied cognition have intriguing implications for the art of persuasion. Study participants tested in a warm room reported feeling socially closer to the experimenter. Participants asked to hold a glass of iced coffee rated a researcher to be more aloof. Holding a heavy clipboard led participants to rate a foreign currency more highly. Plenty for marketers to get their teeth into, so to speak!
THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION
There’s some tentative evidence that heavier people possess a greater sense of self-importance — another example of embodiment interacting with the mind’s metaphors.