ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (5): 538-545.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.00538

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The Vertical Spatial Metaphor of Moral Concepts and Its Influence on Cognition

WANG Zeng;LU Zhongyi   

  1. (1 College of Education, Hebei Normal University, Shijiazhuang 050024, China) (2 College of Clinical Medicine, Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang 050017, China)
  • Received:2012-01-20 Published:2013-05-25 Online:2013-05-25
  • Contact: LU Zhongyi

Abstract: Three studies investigate the vertical spatial metaphor of moral concepts and its influence on cognition. Study 1 was a paper-pencil forced-choice task in which participants saw a cartoon character and two square boxes (one above and one below the character), and were asked to place moral and immoral words into the top or the bottom box of their own will. A matching effect appeared both between the moral terms and the above/up space, and between the immoral terms and the below/down space. Study 2 was a computerized categorization task carried out in E-prime. Participants were instructed to categorize words according to whether they were positive or negative in meaning as quickly and accurately as possible. Response times were shorter when moral words appeared at the top of the screen, and when immoral words appeared at the bottom. Study 3 employed a implicit priming task in which participants first memorized moral or immoral concepts and then estimated the height of objects. Moral concepts led to height overestimation while immoral ones led to underestimation. All together, the results suggest that, for Chinese language, there is psychological reality of “Moral is up, immoral is down”. Such a spatial representation of Chinese moral concepts exists at both the conscious and the subconscious level. Other cognitive activities can be influenced by the spatial metaphor of moral concepts subtly. And this new effect is called the Cognitive Deviation Effect of Chinese Moral Concepts’ Metaphorical Representation.

Key words: morality, conceptual metaphor, spatial representation, perceptual symbols, embodied cognition