Spatializing emotion: A mapping of valence or magnitude?


People implicitly associate different emotions with different locations in left-right space. Which dimensions of emotion do they spatialize? Across many studies people spatialize emotional valence, mapping positive emotions onto their dominant side of space and negative emotions onto their non-dominant side. Yet, other results suggest a contradictory mapping of emotional intensity (a.k.a., emotional magnitude), according to which people associate more intense emotions with the right and less intense emotions with the left, regardless of valence. To resolve this apparent contradiction, we first tested whether people implicitly spatialize whichever dimension of emotion they attend to. Results showed the predicted valence mapping, but no intensity mapping. We then tested an alternative explanation of findings previously interpreted as showing an intensity mapping; these data may reflect a left-right mapping of spatial magnitude, not emotion. People implicitly spatialize emotional valence, but there is no clear evidence for an implicit lateral mapping of emotional intensity.

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