High and mighty: Implicit associations between space and social status

Stephanie A. Gagnon, Tad T. Brunyé*, Cynthia Robin, Caroline R. Mahoney, Holly A. Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Figurative language and our perceptuo-motor experiences frequently associate social sta-tus with physical space. In three experiments we examine the source and extent of these associations by testing whether people implicitly associate abstract social status indicators with concrete representations of spatial topography (level versus mountainous land) and relatively abstract representations of cardinal direction (south and north). Experiment 1 demonstrates speeded performance during an implicit association test (Greenwald et al., 1998) when average social status is paired with level topography and high status with moun-tainous topography. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrate a similar effect but with relatively abstract representations of cardinal direction (south and north), with speeded performance when average and powerful social status are paired with south and north coordinate space, respectively. Abstract concepts of social status are perceived and understood in an inher-ently spatial world, resulting in powerful associations between abstract social concepts and concrete and abstract notions of physical axes. These associations may prove influential in guiding daily judgments and actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 259
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume2
Issue numberOCT
DOIs
StatePublished - 2011

Keywords

  • Embodiment
  • IAT
  • Metaphor
  • North-south bias
  • Social status
  • Spatial cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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