ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (4): 514-521.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.00514

Previous Articles     Next Articles

The Spatial Size Metaphor of Power Concepts: A Perspective from Embodied Cognition

TANG Peipei; YE Haosheng; DU Jianzheng   

  1. (Educatioal College; Center for Mind and Brain Science, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China)
  • Received:2014-06-20 Published:2015-04-25 Online:2015-04-25
  • Contact: YE Haosheng, E-mail:; DU Jianzheng, E-mail:


Metaphor is an important cognitive way for human to understand the world. It’s the main way for human to understand abstract concepts and abstract thinking. Body experience is the foundation of metaphor, through physical experience, human gained the initial concept category. Human achieve the understanding of abstract concepts by mapping it onto the abstract concepts through the isomorphic relation. The isomorphic relationship is the image-schema. It is a structure which builds on our daily physical experience constantly repeated. Humans have many image-schemas, such as "up-down" image-schema, "big-small" image-schema and so on. Through image-schemas, people can understand the abstract concepts by concrete experience. Spatial metaphor is the most common way of human cognition. Most human abstractions are understandings by spatial metaphors. The size is an important dimension of space, is also used to understand the different abstractions commonly. Such as positive vs negative, and importance vs unimportance. The metaphor effects are verified, but even though a lot of the linguistic materials proved the metaphorical relationship between space and power, but it’s still lack of psychological evidence. Based on this situation, current studies use psychological methods investigate the metaphorical effect of power and size systematically. The studies include three experiments: Experiment 1: Classic Stroop Paradigm Variant. Using reaction and correct as dependent variable to investigate the metaphorical effects between size and power. We select some words such as power or powerful, show them on the computer screen in different size, the big is 24, the small is 15. We ask the subjects to judge which one is powerful or powerless. We find out that the subjects judge quicker when the powerful show in big size and when the powerless show in small size; Experiment 2: using social situation paradigm and direct power rating index as dependent variable, further confirm the power and size metaphor. We give subjects some information about a manager, and the organization chart of the company. We ask the subjects to complete a scale about the power of the manager. We find that the manager will be perceived more powerful when the square is big which represent the manager; Experiment 3: through the priming of the power concepts first to investigate whether the cognition of power will influence the after area assessment. We show some words of powerful in the middle of one square as background, then ask the subjects to remember all of them, and estimate the size of the square and the circle. We find that the subjects which ask to remember and estimate the power words, the size is bigger than the subjects which ask to remember the powerless words. Conclusions: There is the metaphor of power and size. The powerful is perceived big, and the powerless is perceived small. When processing power activate “big-small” schema automatically, the schema associate information can influence the power cognition. Space is not only impact on the processing of power, but also affect the processing of power concepts relate to social information. Power and size metaphor has two-way effects. When processing the concept about power, it can be influenced by the spatial size, and also the concept of power processing can affect the perception of space area.

Key words: conceptual metaphor, embodied cognition, spatial metaphor, “big-small&rdquo, image-schema, power