Publication details [#12835]

Fessler, Daniel M.T. 2013. Sizing up the threat: The envisioned physical formidability of terrorists tracks their leaders’ failures and successes. Cognition 127 (1) : 45–56. 12 pp. URL
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This paper argues that the human mind conceptualizes violent events, such as war, weaponry, terrorists attacks, combats and conflicts as metaphorical representations. Specifically, it is stated that physical size and strength are metaphorically conceptualized by the mind in contexts of violence and killings. In order to support this view, 4 experimental studies concerning terrorism were conducted. In all these studies participants were given a facial photograph of a terrorist and they were asked to estimate his physical size, height and muscularity. The results have shown that the day after bin Laden’s death was announced, participants rated the terrorist’s height as less physically formidable, whereas the US flag was represented as physically larger. The results have also indicated that after America’s victory over al Qaeda, participants represented the terrorist as less formidable in terms of physical size and strength. Last but not least, the findings agree with the metaphor approach because it was shown that abstract concepts are encoded as sensorimotor representations, which are grounded on bodily experience.