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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2020, Vol. 52 Issue (2) : 149-161     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00149
Reports of Empirical Studies |
Cognitive development of multiple metaphors of power concepts in 3~5 year-old children
HE Xiaoling1,2,CHEN Jun2()
1 School of Public Administration, Nanchang University, Nanchang 330031, China
2 School of Psychology, Guangdong Key Laboratory of Mental Health and Cognitive Science, Center for Studies of Psychological Application, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
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Abstract  

Conceptual Metaphor Theory assumes that metaphorical mapping represent abstract concepts in terms of concrete ideas. To investigate the cognitive developmental process of multiple metaphors of power concepts in children aged three to five years old, the present study aims to answer three questions: (1) when children’s multiple metaphors of power concepts first develop; (2) whether children can comprehend power concepts through concrete ideas (size, vertical spatial position, and weight) and whether the developmental process is balanced among these three kinds of metaphors; and (3) whether the development of children’s metaphorical perception of power concepts is consistent with metaphor correspondence theory or polarity coding correspondence.

To address the above questions, we conducted three experiments in the present study. A total of 90 preschool children were recruited and divided into three age groups: 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, and 5-year-olds. Experiment 1 investigated the developmental processing of children’s size metaphor of power concepts, which refers to the perception that a powerful person is large whereas a powerless person is small. The experiment was a 3 (age group: three, four, and five) × 2 (picture type: powerful and powerless) × 2 (size: large and small) mixed design. Participants were requested to place pictures of familiar cartoon figures that exhibited powerful or powerless qualities onto large or small circles. Results revealed that the frequency with which children placed pictures of powerful figures in large circles and those of powerless figures in small circles increased considerably with age. Experiment 2 investigated the developmental processing of children’s vertical spatial metaphor of power concepts, which refers to the perception that a powerful person is spatially up whereas a powerless person is spatially down. The experiment was a 3 (age group: three, four, and five) × 2 (picture type: powerful and powerless) × 2 (spatial position: upper and lower) mixed design. Participants were requested to place pictures of familiar cartoon figures that exhibited powerful or powerless qualities into boxes printed above or below a stick figure. Results revealed that the frequency with which children placed pictures of powerful figures in the upper box and those of powerless figures in the lower box increased considerably with age. Experiment 3 investigated the developmental processing of children’s weight metaphor of power concepts, which refers to the perception that a powerful person is heavy whereas a powerless person is light. The experiment was a 3 (age group: three, four, and five) × 2 (picture type: powerful and powerless) × 2 (weight type: heavy and light) mixed design. Participants were requested to place pictures of familiar cartoon figures that exhibited powerful or powerless qualities into a teeterboard printed with heavy or light sides. Results revealed that the frequency with which children placed pictures of powerful figures in the heavy side and pictures of powerless figures in the light side increased considerably with age.

Taken together, results demonstrated that (1) children aged three have not yet developed metaphors of power concepts. The age of four is an important period for the development of metaphors of power concepts, when the ability of comprehending such metaphors developed. Children aged four could understand positive pole metaphors of power concepts, while children aged five enhanced this capability. In addition, children aged 5 could understand the negative metaphors of power concepts, which means that they developed a comprehensive ability to understand multiple metaphors (size, vertical spatial position, and weight) of power concepts; (2) preschool children had a balanced understanding of multiple metaphors of power concepts; (3) the development of metaphors of power concepts in preschool children is in line with metaphor correspondence theory. Moreover, the development of metaphorical representation does not follow a “with or without” pattern but rather a “gradual” developmental model.

Keywords 3~5 years old children      power concepts      multiple metaphors      Metaphor Correspondence Theory      Polarity Coding Correspondence      cognitive development     
PACS:  B844  
Corresponding Authors: Jun CHEN     E-mail: chenjunyrh@163.com
Issue Date: 24 December 2019
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Cite this article:   
HE Xiaoling,CHEN Jun. Cognitive development of multiple metaphors of power concepts in 3~5 year-old children[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica,2020, 52(2): 149-161.
URL:  
http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00149     OR     http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/Y2020/V52/I2/149
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