Environmental Orientation Affects Emotional Expression Identification


Spatial metaphors for affective valence are common in English, where up in space=happy/positive and down in space=sad/negative. Past research suggests that these metaphors have some measure of psychological reality: people are faster to respond to valenced stimuli when they are presented in metaphor-congruent regions of space. Here we explore whether the orientation of a stimulus –rather than its position– is sufficient to elicit such spatial-valence congruency effects, and, if so, which spatial reference frame(s) people use to represent this orientation. In Experiment 1, participants viewed images of happy and sad profile faces in different orientations and had to identify the depicted emotion. In Experiment 2, participants completed this task while lying down on their sides, thereby disassociating environmental and egocentric reference frames. Experiment 1 revealed a metaphor-congruent interaction between emotion and orientation, while Experiment 2 revealed that this spatial-valence congruency effect was only reliable in the environmental frame of reference.

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