In the past decade, many studies have focused on the relationship between emotional valence and vertical spatial positions from a processing perspective. Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) work on conceptual metaphor has traditionally motivated these investigations, but recent work (Lakens in J Exp Psychol: Learn, Mem Cogn, 38: 726–736, 2012) has suggested that polarity-based perspectives offer an alternative account of response time patterns. We contrasted the predictions of these two theories using a new facial emotion recognition task, in which participants made speeded responses to happy or sad faces on a display, with the spatial location of those faces being manipulated. In three experiments (two-alternative forced choice tasks and a go/no-go task), we found a pattern of responses consistent with a polarity-based account, but inconsistent with key predictions of the conceptual-metaphor account. Overall, congruency effects were observed for positively valenced items, but not for negatively valenced items. These findings demonstrate that polarity effects extend to nonlinguistic stimuli and beyond two-alternative forced choice tasks. We discuss the results in terms of common-coding approaches to task–response mappings.
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We thank Jeff Zacks and Louise Connell for helpful discussions in preparing this work and Daniel Lakens and Remo Job for very helpful reviews. The order of authorship is arbitrary: both authors contributed equally to the work.
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Lynott, D., Coventry, K. On the ups and downs of emotion: testing between conceptual-metaphor and polarity accounts of emotional valence–spatial location interactions. Psychon Bull Rev 21, 218–226 (2014). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-013-0481-5
- Emotion recognition
- Conceptual metaphor
- Spatial congruency