Thinking about the abstract concept power may automatically activate the spatial up-down image schema (powerful up; powerless down) and consequently direct spatial attention to the image schema-congruent location. Participants indicated whether a word represented a powerful or powerless person (e.g. 'king' or 'servant'). Following each decision, they identified a target at the top or bottom of the visual field. In Experiment 1 participants identified the target faster when their spatial position was congruent with the perceived power of the preceding word than when it was incongruent. In Experiment 2 ERPs showed a higher N1 amplitude for congruent spatial positions. These results support the view that attention is driven to the image schema congruent location of a power word. Thus, power is partially understood in terms of vertical space, which demonstrates that abstract concepts are grounded in sensory-motor processing.

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Brain and Cognition
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Zanolie, K., van Dantzig, S., Boot, I., Wijnen, J., Schubert, T., Giessner, S., & Pecher, D. (2012). Mighty metaphors: Behavioral and ERP evidence that power shifts attention on a vertical dimension. Brain and Cognition, 78(1), 50–58. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2011.10.006