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Clean, Moral, and Beyond: Clues to the Embodied Metaphorical Mind

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The body influences the mind. But which bodily states influence which mental states? Can they be predicted? It turns out the metaphors we use frequently, effortlessly, and unconsciously in daily life are windows into the links between our concrete bodily experiences and abstract psychological experiences (e.g., clean-moral, warm-friendly, heavy-important, high-powerful). This insight has been the focus of a rapidly growing body of experimental demonstrations. While demonstrations abound, mechanisms remain unclear. Using the domain of cleanliness as a testbed, I will present accumulating evidence that cleansing exerts metaphorical influence way beyond the moral domain. Cleansing eliminates free-choice dissonance, reduces luck-based decisions, changes goal priming effects, and more. These findings provide clues to a new mechanism of cleansing effects. More broadly, they raise the possibility that bodily states not only activate metaphorically associated concepts and feelings, but also function as embodied metaphorical procedures.

About the presenter: Spike W. S. Lee is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Toronto. He is interested in the embodied and metaphorical nature of human thinking, which often leads to quirky effects (e.g., physical cleansing helps people move on by “wiping the slate clean”; when people “smell something fishy,” they become suspicious and invest less money in a trust-dependent economic game). Specifically, he explores how the mind interacts with the body in multiple ways; why mind-body relations are often predicted by the metaphors we use; when and how metaphors influence judgment, affect, and behavior; what cognitive principles govern these metaphorical effects and how they vary by experimental, social, and cultural context.

This talk is part of the Moral Psychology Research Group series.

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