ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (2): 216-226.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00216

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Temporal-Spatial Metaphor in Conceptual Representation: Can Spatial Information be Activated When Processing the Temporal Reference Which Implied in the Changing Shape of Objects?

SONG Yiqi;ZHANG Jijia   

  1. (Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China) (Center for Psychological Application, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China)
  • Received:2013-05-13 Published:2014-02-25 Online:2014-02-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Jijia


Although time is abstract, unbodied and intangible, human also can feel it in some way. The changing shapes of objects show the existence of time. As time goes on, the shape of objects will change or be changed. The objects in a forward position of time series refer to “earlier”, while the objects in a afterward position of time series refer to “later”. It has been demonstrated that English participants were faster responding to “earlier” objects presented on the left of the screen and to “later” objects presented on the right of the screen. Both the perceptual symbol theory and the propositional symbol theory assure that this finding can be explained by the opinion of the reading/writing directionality affecting the representation of temporal sequences. Therefore, the former studies haven’t solved the disputes of the above two theories. The substantial difference between two theories is whether the information, activated during the concept processing, is perceptual. In present research, two experiments were conducted to investigate whether the perceptual traits (the degree of shape change) affected congruency effects between temporal reference and spatial relation. In each experiment, pairs of words or pictures of objects, which were displayed on the left and right of the screen respectively, were used as targets. It is called metaphor-consistent condition, if the “earlier” objects in this condition were on the left of screen and the “later” ones were on the right; by contrast, it is called metaphor-inconsistent condition. Pairs of objects were divided into two groups. In the one group, the shapes of objects in pairs have changed gradually as time goes on. There are still a lot of same traits between two objects; in the other group, the shapes of objects in pairs have changed abruptly. There is little resemblance between two objects. In Experiment 1, Participants were instructed to carry out semantic relatedness judgment to pairs of object names with go/no-go task. The results showed semantic processing was inhibited in metaphor-inconsistent condition rather than metaphor-consistent condition. Participants were faster responding when the “earlier” objects in the left of the screen and the “later” objects in the right of the screen. It indicated that the temporal reference which implied in the changing shape of objects was activated. Furthermore, there were more significant temporal-spatial congruency effects in the shapes-changing-abruptly group. This result showed that perceptual traits were activated when processing the concept. Experiment 2, which was same as Experiment 1 except changing words into pictures, got the same temporal-spatial congruency effects as Experiment 1. Furthermore, Experiment 2 got a very important and different result. Perceptual traits affected the semantic relatedness judgment to pairs of object pictures which did not observe in Experiment 1. Participants were faster responding to the objects of gradually changing shapes than the ones of changing abruptly shapes. In short, it is claimed that spatial information can be activated when processing temporal reference which implied in the changing shape of objects. Combining the results of two experiments, it suggested that there were both semantic processing and perceptual simulation in the conceptual processing, which further proved the perspectives of dual-processing theory.

Key words: time metaphor, the changing of shape, dual-processing theory