Is a difficult task literally heavy?
Weight biases difficulty judgements
The conceptualization of abstract concepts is very often metaphorical, meaning that we think and talk about abstract concepts in terms of other, usually more concrete experiences. Recent research suggests that many abstract concepts are linked to bodily sensations. In two experiments, we tested a hypothesis about weight as an embodiment of difficulty. We hypothesized that participants wearing a heavy backpack would judge a psychomotor task to be more difficult than participants wearing an empty backpack. We also hypothesized that manipulation of psychomotor task difficulty would affect judgement of backpack heaviness. In line with our hypothesis, the results demonstrated that participants wearing a heavy backpack judged the task to be more difficult. The results of Experiment 2 demonstrated that, regardless of task difficulty, there was no difference in weight judgement when backpack weight was estimated on a 7-point scale. However, we found a difference in the judgement of backpack weight when participants were asked to express it in kilograms, where weight was judged to be lower by participants doing the easy task than by those doing the difficult task.
Keywords: heavy and difficult, metaphor, embodied cognition, primary metaphor, asymmetry, bidirectionality
Published online: 01 May 2020
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