On the ups and downs of emotion: testing between conceptual-metaphor and polarity accounts of emotional valence-spatial location interactions

Dermot Lynott, Kenny Coventry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-26
Number of pages9
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
Early online date1 Aug 2013
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Emotion recognition
  • Conceptual metaphor
  • Spatial congruency
  • Representation
  • Polarity

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