PLoS ONE (Jan 2016)

How Body Orientation Affects Concepts of Space, Time and Valence: Functional Relevance of Integrating Sensorimotor Experiences during Word Processing.

  • Martin Lachmair,
  • Susana Ruiz Fernandez,
  • Nils-Alexander Bury,
  • Peter Gerjets,
  • Martin H Fischer,
  • Otmar L Bock

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 11
p. e0165795


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The aim of the present study was to test the functional relevance of the spatial concepts UP or DOWN for words that use these concepts either literally (space) or metaphorically (time, valence). A functional relevance would imply a symmetrical relationship between the spatial concepts and words related to these concepts, showing that processing words activate the related spatial concepts on one hand, but also that an activation of the concepts will ease the retrieval of a related word on the other. For the latter, the rotation angle of participant's body position was manipulated either to an upright or a head-down tilted body position to activate the related spatial concept. Afterwards participants produced in a within-subject design previously memorized words of the concepts space, time and valence according to the pace of a metronome. All words were related either to the spatial concept UP or DOWN. The results including Bayesian analyses show (1) a significant interaction between body position and words using the concepts UP and DOWN literally, (2) a marginal significant interaction between body position and temporal words and (3) no effect between body position and valence words. However, post-hoc analyses suggest no difference between experiments. Thus, the authors concluded that integrating sensorimotor experiences is indeed of functional relevance for all three concepts of space, time and valence. However, the strength of this functional relevance depends on how close words are linked to mental concepts representing vertical space.