ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (7): 875-885.

### Metaphorical representation of moral concepts: Evidence from red/white color, left/right position and upright/skew font

YANG Jiping1,2; GUO Xiumei2; WANG Xingchao3

1.  (1 Business College of Shanxi University, Taiyuan 030031, China) (2 School of Educational Science, Shanxi University, Taiyuan 030006, China) (3 Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China)
• Received:2016-07-12 Published:2017-07-25 Online:2017-05-26
• Contact: GUO Xiumei, E-mail: xuruofeng06841@163.com E-mail: E-mail: xuruofeng06841@163.com
• Supported by:

Abstract:  Individuals comprehend abstractions by representing it with concrete things. Conceptual Metaphor Theory describes embodied effects where sensation influences process of understanding concept. In this framework, the essence of metaphor is that people use specific experiences to construct abstract concepts. Many previous studies found that the abstract concept of “morality” was embodied within black and white color as well as up and down vertical space. However, few studies had focused on examining red and white color, left and right position, and upright and skew font in metaphor of morality. The present study were comprised of three Stroop experiments with undergraduates to test whether metaphoric representation of morality was associated with white and red color, left and right position, and upright and skew font. Three studies used the Stroop paradigm to investigate red and white color, left and right position, and upright and skew font metaphor representation of moral concepts in Chinese culture. Stroop paradigm’s vocabulary categorization task was carried out in E-prime 2.0. Participants were instructed to categorize words according to whether they were moral or immoral in meaning as accurately and quickly as possible. A matching effect appeared between moral/immoral terms with red/white color, and between moral/immoral terms with left/right position, and between moral/immoral terms with upright/skew font. In Experiment 1, different color (red and white) was employed to present morality-related (moral and immoral) words. Repeated measurement ANOVAs was used to analyze the data. Results indicated that, when moral words appeared in red color, and when immoral words appeared in white color, participants’ response times have no significant difference. In other words, participants didn’t show the tendency to associate moral words with white color, and associate immoral words with red color. In Experiment 2, different position (left and right) was designed to present morality-related (moral and immoral) words. Repeated measurement ANOVAs were used to analyze the data. The results of Experiment 2 showed a significant Stroop effect. When moral words were presented on the right position and immoral words presented on the left position, reaction times were significantly reduced. In Experiment 3, different vocabulary font (upright and skew) was designed to show morality-related (moral and immoral) words. Experiment 3 used the same way with experiment 2 to process data. It showed that, response times were longer when immoral words appeared in upright font than when immoral words appeared in skew font; and responses times were longer when moral words appeared in skew font than when moral words appeared in upright font. Altogether, results suggest the psychological reality of “Morality is right, and immorality is left; Morality is upright, and immorality is skew” in Chinese cultural background. The mental representation of morality is associated with left and right position and upright and skew font in Chinese culture. Chinese participants tend to associate moral words with the right position and the upright font, and associate immoral words with the left position and the skew font. Different cultural backgrounds and specific sensory perception create ecological environments in which morality with left/right location or upright/skew font is correlated. Based on this, we argue that Chinese people have implicitly developed the mental association between left/right position and moral concepts as well as upright/skew font cues and moral concepts.

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