No effect of weight on judgments and perceptions of importance in the moral domain
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Description: In different cultures, people use the concept of weight to refer to important matters. Recent studies in grounded cognition suggested that experiences of weight affect unrelated judgments of importance in metaphor-congruent ways. Theories in grounded cognition and prime-to-behavior effects state that sensations of weight should activate concepts of importance, which may affect morality-related variables that are influenced by judgments of importance. The present research aimed to test the effect of carrying a heavy (or light) clipboard on the perceived importance of helping and on the judged severity of moral transgressions. After finding no significant effects in two experiments, a third study explored whether the absence of a significant effect was due to (1) insensitivity of the morality-related measurements to accessibility effects or to (2) the concept of importance not being grounded in sensations of weight. Specifically, Study 3 was an attempt to replicate two studies previously reported in the literature. Taken together the results suggest that the concept of importance is not as universally grounded in sensations, as earlier published findings appear to suggest. We discuss the implications of these results for current theories in grounded cognition and in light of discussions concerning methodological and statistical aspects of priming studies in psychology.
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