Living in turbulent times
The embodied effect of physical instability on opinions about the COVID-19 pandemic
Spoken metaphors such as “unstable situation” document a conceptual association between physical instability and difficult situations. Drawing on research in embodied cognition and conceptual metaphor, the present research examined whether people’s somatic experience can influence their attitudes toward the current COVID-19 pandemic. The hypothesis is that inducing a sensorimotor state such as physical instability can activate the associated abstract concepts such as the feelings of instability during a public health crisis. In Experiment 1, participants who sat at a wobbly table and chair believed more in and had greater concern about the coronavirus disease than participants in a stable workstation. Using a different manipulation of physical instability and a more diverse sample, Experiment 2 found that participants who stood on one foot rather than two were more likely to worry about the pandemic. Experiment 3 examined consequential behavior that might follow from respondents’ COVID-19-related attitudes. The results showed that participants who adopted a single-leg stance rather than a double-leg stance donated more money to the coronavirus treatment acceleration program aiming to stabilize the virus situation. Taken together, these findings indicate that seemingly irrelevant physical experiences can skew people’s opinions on the COVID-19 pandemic, exerting potential downstream effects on their actual behavior.
Keywords: COVID-19, conceptual metaphor, embodied cognition, physical instability, social cognition
Published online: 11 October 2021
Briñol, P., & Petty, R. E.
Duncan, L. A., Schaller, M., & Park, J. H.
Earp, B. D., Everett, J. A., Madva, E. N., & Hamlin, J. K.
Ford, M. B.
Forest, A. L., Kille, D. R., Wood, J. V., & Stehouwer, L. R.
Gao, Y., Sun, F., Jiang, W., Fang, Y., Yue, L., Lin, X., & Li, X.
Hauser, D. J., & Schwarz, N.
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A.
Kalichman, S. C.
Kille, D. R., Forest, A. L., & Wood, J. V.
Landau, M. J.[ p. 561 ]
Landau, M. J., Meier, B. P., & Keefer, L. A.
Li, H., & Cao, Y.
Li, H., & Shen, S.
Li, Y., Johnson, E. J., & Zaval, L.
Lu, J. G., Quoidbach, J., Gino, F., Chakroff, A., Maddux, W. W., & Galinsky, A. D.
Meier, B. P., Schnall, S., Schwarz, N., & Bargh, J. A.
Meischke, H., Sellers, D. E., Robbins, M. L., Goff, D. C., Daya, M. R., Meshack, A., & Hand, M. M.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F.
Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F.
Prentice, D. A., & Miller, D. T.
Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez, F. J., & Pérez-Hernández, L.[ p. 562 ]
Sheetal, A., Feng, Z., & Savani, K.
Varma, D. D. V. N. A., Bagaria, A., Kumari, S., Rajan, M., Priya, A., & Brahmbhatt, H.
Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A.
Williams, L. E., & Bargh, J. A.
Williams, L. E., Huang, J. Y., & Bargh, J. A.