ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (4): 481-491.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00481

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The Vertically Spatial Metaphors of Kinship words of Qiang Nationality

LI Huijuan;ZHANG Jijia;ZHANG Ruixin   

  1. (1 Center for Psychological Application, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China) (2 Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China)
  • Received:2012-12-17 Published:2014-04-25 Online:2014-04-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Jijia


The way human beings represent abstract concepts is an important issue worth exploring in cognitive psychology. The embodied cognition theory claims that the simulation of actual sensory-motor experiences gets involved into the process of mental representation of concepts. When people represent a concept, the pre-stored information of the sensory-motor experience is partly activated to form a simulation of this sensory-motor experience. The possibility and the ways for these abstract concepts to be represented in sensory-motor representation have always been unclear. The Conceptual Metaphor Theory proposes that abstract concepts are represented by metaphors. According to this theory, metaphors serve as the basis for abstract concepts by connecting them with more concrete representations. And, the up-down image schema is the most important metaphor. The kinship, the initial social relationship of individuals, is formed on the basis of blood relationship and marriage. There are corresponding words to represent kinship in each language system, and these words are termed as kinship words. Kinship words contain abundant information about genetics, marriage, sociology and culture. This study aimed to explore whether the embodied generation relationship of kinship words could be represented by more concrete representations through metaphors. Generally speaking, the senior generational kinship imply the higher authority, stronger and upper social status and more respect, but the junior generational kinship mean lower authority, weaker and lower social status and more care. Therefore, this article also tried to investigate the role of spatial up-down image schemas proposed in the Conceptual Metaphor Theory in the process of embodied generation relationship of kinship words. In this study, the authors chose the Qiang nationality, one of the oldest nationalities in China, as the subject for study.Kinship word judgment task and lexical decision task were introduced to examine the impact of the spatial up-down image schema on the seniority process of kinship words of Qiang nationality. Furthermore, the authors took spatial recognition task to examine whether the generation concept could automatically active the spatial up-down image scheme so as to guide the subjects’ spatial attention to the consistent position with image schema-congruent location. Results of experiment 1a and 1b indicated that “metaphor congruency effect” existed in Qiang subjects on the cognition of the kinship words. That is to say, the senior generational kinship words presented in the upper part of the screen, and the junior generational kinship words in the lower part were processed faster. Experiment 2 showed that when the spatial position of target stimuli were consistent with the information of the preceding kinship words, participants recognized the target faster. In sum, these results indicated that the embodied generation relation among Qiang’s kinship words might be explained through the vertical space relation, which automatically guided subjects’ space attention to the consistent position of the spatial up-down image schema affects. Thus, generation relation is partly understood in terms of vertical space, which demonstrates that the understanding of abstract concept is based on sensory-motor process, in accordance with Concept Metaphor Theory.

Key words: Qiang nationality, seniority in the family, spatial attention, embodied cognition, Conceptual Metaphor Theory