The Role of Conscious Attention in Embodiment: Initial Evidence of a Dual Process Model of Embodied Cognition
AuthorZestcott, Colin Alexander
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractPrevious research shows that bodily experiences can unconsciously influence perception, judgment, and behavior. However, inconsistency among recent findings in the embodied cognition literature suggests a need for theoretical boundary conditions. While research appears to assume that embodied effects are necessarily implicit (Schnall, 2017), the extant literature has not directly manipulated the role that conscious awareness of bodily states plays in embodied cognition. Dual process theories of social cognition assert that information processing falls along a continuum, from processing that is relatively automatic, effortless, and experiential, to processing that is relatively deliberate, controlled, and rational. Importantly, information processed along the dimensions of this continuum can lead to different outcomes. Thus, if the body influences social cognition in a more implicit manner, experimentally manipulating conscious awareness of a bodily state may lend further insight into when embodiment is attenuated. Six studies tested this possibility in the case of the demonstrated effect of weight sensations on judgments of an abstract idea’s importance (e.g., Ackerman, Nocera, & Bargh, 2010; Jostmann, Lakens, Schubert, 2009). Studies 1 and 2 revealed a curvilinear relationship between increased clipboard weight and ratings of importance such that participants rated a topic as more important when holding a moderately heavy, compared to light, clipboard; however, the importance ratings decreased when the clipboard was very heavy. This curvilinear relationship was not caused by a negative evaluation of the topic or the activation of a different metaphor (burden). In Study 3, ratings of importance increased with a moderately heavy clipboard compared to a light clipboard, but this difference was eliminated by explicitly drawing perceiver's attention to the weight of the clipboard. Study 4 extended the model and showed that even a very heavy clipboard can act as an embodiment of importance when participants are prevented from deliberately processing the weight of the clipboard via a cognitive load manipulation. Study 5 provided limited evidence establishing the role of cognitive motivation in embodiment as measured by need for cognition. However, experimentally manipulating cognitive motivation in Study 6 showed that individuals with higher cognitive motivation were more likely to show the embodied effect when the heft of the clipboard was subtle (i.e., holding a moderately heavy clipboard) whereas those with lower cognitive motivation were more likely to show the embodied effect when the heft of the clipboard was blatant (i.e., holding a very heavy clipboard). Collectively, these studies suggest that embodiment is subject to dual-processes whereby if something in the context draws conscious attention to a stimuli that activates an embodied metaphor, perceivers will no longer use their body as a source of information when processing the stimuli.
Degree ProgramGraduate College