From Physical Weight to Psychological Significance: The Contribution of Semantic Activations
Past research has shown that a physical experience can influence metaphorically linked psychological judgment. However, the underlying mechanisms have not been formally tested. This article examines the role of semantic activations underlying such influences, focusing on the effects of a ubiquitous physical experience—“carrying weight”—on consumers’ judgment of importance. Five experiments provide converging evidence that semantic activation is the primary underlying process for the effect. Specifically, physically carrying a load is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for processing the concept of importance. The effect is fully mediated by semantic activation of related weight concepts. Moreover, processing the concept of importance does not necessarily influence the physical experience of carrying weight. An affective state such as mental stress (psychological load), however, does have a reciprocal effect on the physical experience of carrying weight, indicating that there might be different pathways between weight experience and its metaphorically linked concepts.
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