Thursday, September 03, 2009

Weight as an embodyment of importance.

Jostman et al. do some interesting experiments that indicate that our abstract concept of importance is grounded in bodily experiences of weight. This is not a surprise, for weight is a metaphor for importance in many languages. People "weigh" the value of different options before making a decision, they "add weight" to place emphasis on important ideas, and their opinion "carries weight" if they fill an influential position. The experiments suggest that the link between weight and importance exists not only on a linguistic level, but also is an embodied cognition grounded in our bodily experiences of weight.
Participants provided judgments of importance while they held either a heavy or a light clipboard. Holding a heavy clipboard increased judgments of monetary value (Study 1) and made participants consider fair decision-making procedures to be more important (Study 2). It also caused more elaborate thinking, as indicated by higher consistency between related judgments (Study 3) and by greater polarization of agreement ratings for strong versus weak arguments (Study 4). In line with an embodied perspective on cognition, these findings suggest that, much as weight makes people invest more physical effort in dealing with concrete objects, it also makes people invest more cognitive effort in dealing with abstract issues.

1 comment:

  1. When I saw you headline I thought it was going to be a correlation of perceived importance and body weight! I'm trying to get my BMI down a little (25 -> 22) and I'd been idly wondering how it changes what people think of you.