Motor Imagery Shapes Abstract Concepts

Cognitive Science 41 (5):1350-1360 (2017)

The concepts of “good” and “bad” are associated with right and left space. Individuals tend to associate good things with the side of their dominant hand, where they experience greater motor fluency, and bad things with their nondominant side. This mapping has been shown to be flexible: Changing the relative fluency of the hands, or even observing a change in someone else's motor fluency, results in a reversal of the conceptual mapping, such that good things become associated with the side of the nondominant hand. Yet, based on prior studies, it is unclear whether space–valence associations were determined by the experience of fluent versus disfluent actions, or by the mere expectation of fluency. Here, we tested the role of expected fluency by removing motor execution and perceptual feedback altogether. Participants were asked to imagine themselves performing a psychomotor task with one of their hands impaired, after which their implicit space–valence mapping was measured. After imagining that their right hand was impaired, right-handed participants showed the “good is left” association typical of left-handers. Motor imagery can change people's implicit associations between space and emotional valence. Although asymmetric motor experience may be necessary to establish body-specific associations between space and valence initially, neither motoric nor perceptual experience is needed to change these associations subsequently. The mere expectation of fluent versus disfluenct actions can drive fluency-based effects on people's implicit spatialization of “good” and “bad.” These results suggest a reconsideration of the mechanisms and boundary conditions of fluency effects.
Keywords Body specificity  Mental imagery  Conceptual metaphor  Handedness  Fluency  Emotional valence
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DOI 10.1111/cogs.12406
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References found in this work BETA

The Secret Life of Fluency.Daniel M. Oppenheimer - 2008 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12 (6):237-241.
Embodiment of Abstract Concepts: Good and Bad in Right- and Left-Handers.Daniel Casasanto - 2009 - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 138 (3):351-367.

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