Publication details [#9761]

Schnall, Simone. 2001. Embodied emotion, embodied cognition: The influence of bodily states on metaphor comprehension and self-reports of emotional feelings. Worcester, Mass.. 154 pp.


A recent theory of conceptual structure proposes that bodily processes constrain cognitive information processing, and that the resulting knowledge is structured in a largely metaphorical way (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). According to this view, the body is a source of information, and by means of conceptual metaphors, very basic "embodied" concepts (e.g., feeling "up"). The present research tested the hypothesis that manipulating bodily states related to specific emotions should influence the processing of emotion metaphors. Participants adopted facial expressions and postures associated with Fear, Anger or Happiness. Study 1 used a lexical decision task, and Study 2 used an emotional Stroop task to investigate the ease of processing of metaphors describing fear, anger or happiness. Findings from Study 1 indicate that compared to the Happiness Expression Condition, participants in the Fear Expression Condition were generally faster in recognizing all emotion metaphors. Study 2 showed a predicted reversal of the effect: Participants in the Fear Expression Group showed overall more Stroop interference than in the Happy Expression Condition, and highest interference for happy metaphors. While not quite following the predicted pattern of mood congruence effects, the results are consistent with an evolutionarily adaptive "short-cut" of an automatic fear response (LeDoux, 1996), and with work in neuroscience that implicates the fear system in situations of ambiguity that require increased vigilance (Davis & Whalen, 2001). (Dissertation Abstracts)