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Davood Gozli, Amy Chow, Alison L. Chasteen, Jay Pratt; Spatial Bias induced by Semantic Valence: Evidence From Eye Movement Trajectories. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):512. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.512.
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Concepts of positive and negative valence are metaphorically structured in space (e.g., happy is up, sad is down). In fact, coupling a conceptual task (e.g., evaluating words as positive or negative) with a visuospatial task (e.g., identifying stimuli above or below fixation) often gives rise to metaphorical congruency effects. For instance, after reading a positive concept, a visual target above fixation is processed more efficiently than one below fixation. Recent studies, however, have challenged the idea that up and down spatial codes are automatically activated by valence concepts. Instead, it is possible that tasks requiring upward and downward attentional orienting artificially emphasize the link between valence and space. Here, we address the question as to whether the up and down spatial codes can be activated in a task that does not require attentional orienting along the vertical axis. To uncouple the valence axis from the spatial response axis we measured saccadic trajectory deviations, with the assumption that fast saccades deviate toward the salient segment of space. Participants read a single word at fixation, referring to a positive (e.g., ‘happy’), negative (e.g., ‘sad’), or neutral concept (e.g., ‘table). A peripheral visual target then appeared to the left or right, and participants made speeded saccadic responses to the target (unless the preceding word referred to a piece of furniture). Examining saccadic trajectories revealed patterns of deviation along the vertical axis consistent with the metaphorical congruency account; larger saccadic deviations upward were found after positive concepts compared to negative concepts. Importantly, placing task-irrelevant distractors above and below fixation did not modulate the pattern of deviations. These results suggest that metaphorical congruency effects between valence and space are not an artificial product of specific experimental tasks. That is, semantic processing of valence may automatically recruit spatial features along the vertical axis.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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