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Embodiment in Attitudes, Social Perception, and Emotion



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Personality and Social Psychology Review 2005 Vol 9 No 3 184 211 Copyright 2005 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc Embodiment in Attitudes Social Perception and Emotion Paula M Niedenthal Laboratory in Social and Cognitive Psychology CNRS and University of Clermont Ferrand France Lawrence W Barsalou Department of Psychology Emory University Piotr Winkielman Department of Psychology University of California San Diego Silvia Krauth Gruber and Fran ois Ric Laboratory in Social Psychology Universit Ren Descartes Paris Findings in the social psychology literatures on attitudes social perception and emotion demonstrate that social information processing involves embodiment where embodiment refers both to actual bodily states and to simulations of experience in the brain s modality specific systems for perception action and introspection We show that embodiment underlies social information processing when the perceiver interacts with actual social objects online cognition and when the perceiver represents social objects in their absence offline cognition Although many empirical demonstrations of social embodiment exist no particularly compelling account of them has been offered We propose that theories of embodied cognition such as the Perceptual Symbol Systems PSS account Barsalou 1999 explain and integrate these findings and that they also suggest exciting new directions for research We compare the PSS account to a variety of related proposals and show how it addresses criticisms that have previously posed problems for the general embodiment approach Consider the following findings Wells and Petty 1980 reported that nodding the head as in agreement while listening to persuasive messages led to more positive attitudes toward the message content than shaking the head as in disagreement Cacioppo Priester and Berntson 1993 observed that novel Chinese ideographs presented during arm flexion an action associated with approach were subsequently evaluated more favorably than ideographs presented during arm extension an action associated with avoidance Duclos et al 1989 led participants to adopt various bodily positions associated nonobviously with fear anger and sadness and found that these postural states modulated experienced affect Strack Martin and Stepper 1988 unobtrusively facilitated or inhibited the contraction of the zygomaticus smiling muscle by asking participants to hold a pen in their mouth while they evaluated cartoons Participants judged cartoons to be funnier when smiling was facilitated rather than inhibited see Stepper Strack 1993 for related findings Bargh Chen and Burrows 1996 showed that participants in whom the elderly stereotype had been primed subsequently walked down a hallway more slowly than did participants in whom the stereotype had not been primed And Schubert 2004 showed that making a fist influenced men s and women s automatic processing of words related to the concept of power All such findings suggest that the body is closely tied to the processing of social and emotional information No single theory however has integrated the findings or explained them in a unified manner Recent theories of embodied cognition which view knowl The authors thank Vic Ferreira Art Glenberg Danny McIntosh Randy O Reilly and Cathy Reed for their helpful comments on various drafts of this article We also thank the Society for Personality and Social Psychology for awarding this article the SPSP 2003 Theoretical Innovation Prize Preparation of this article was supported by National Science Foundation grants BCS 0217294 to Piotr Winkielman and BCS 0350687 to Piotr Winkielman and Paula Niedenthal Requests for reprints should be sent to Paula M Niedenthal LAPSCO Universit Blaise Pascal 34 avenue Carnot 63037 Clermont Ferrand Cedex FRANCE E mail niedenthal srvpsy univ bpclermont fr or to Piotr Winkielman e mail pwinkiel ucsd edu 184 EMBODIMENT edge acquisition and knowledge use as processes grounded in the brain s modality specific systems hold promise of accounting for such findings and perhaps most important predicting the effects explicitly and a priori Barsalou Niedenthal Barbey Ruppert 2003 Smith Semin 2004 Further these recent theories are able to successfully address conceptual issues that doomed previous embodiment proposals making them attractive alternatives to widely accepted amodal theories of cognition The aim of this article is to show how that is so and to propose new ideas for the study of information processing in social psychology The Notion of Embodied Mind The nature of knowledge the basic representational elements of cognitive operations lies at the core of psychology and cognitive science Our view of what knowledge is determines how we conceptualize perception memory judgment reasoning and even emotion It is generally agreed that the processing of any mental content including social and emotional content involves internal symbols of some sort mental representations But this really just begs the question What are mental representations Further how do they derive their meaning an issue known as the symbol grounding problem Harnad 2003 Searle 1980 If we can make progress on these questions we can put psychology in general and social psychology in particular on firmer theoretical footing Amodal Architectures Most models guiding current cognitive and social psychology are based on the traditional computer metaphor This popular metaphor makes two major claims about the mind The first is that the software of the mind is independent of the hardware of the body and the brain Block 1995 Dennett 1969 Thus cognitive operations are arbitrarily related to their physical instantiations so that any sufficiently complex physical system could have human intelligence In principle the software that constitutes the mind including the social mind could run on anything neurons silicon or even wooden gears as long as the elements were arranged in proper functional relations The second claim of the computer metaphor is that high level cognition such as inference categorization and memory is performed using abstract amodal symbols that bear arbitrary relations to the perceptual states that produce them Newell Simon 1972 Pylyshyn 1984 Mental operations on these amodal representations are performed by a central processing unit that is informationally encapsulated from the input sensory and output motor subsystems Fodor 1983 The only function of sensory systems is to deliver detailed


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