Vertical position of Chinese power words influences power judgments: Evidence from spatial compatibility task and event-related Potentials

Int J Psychophysiol. 2016 Apr:102:55-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2016.03.005. Epub 2016 Mar 14.


The present study used event-related potentials (ERPs) to explore the influence of vertical position on power judgments. Participants were asked to identify whether a Chinese word represented a powerful or powerless group (e.g., "king" or "servant"), which was presented in the top or bottom of the screen. The behavioral analysis showed that judging the power of powerful words were significantly faster when they were presented at the top position, compared with when they were presented at the bottom position. The ERP analysis showed enhanced N1 amplitude for congruent trials (i.e., the powerful words in the top and the powerless words in the bottom of the screen) and larger P300 and LPC amplitude for incongruent trials (i.e., the powerful words in the bottom and the powerless words in the top of the screen). The present findings provide further electrophysiological evidence that thinking about power can automatically activate the underlying spatial up-down (verticality) image schema and that the influence of vertical position on the power judgments not only occurs at the early perceptual stage of power word processing, but also at the higher cognitive stage (i.e., allocation of attention resources, conflict solving and response selection). This study revealed the neural underpinnings of metaphor congruent effect which have great significance to our understanding of the abstract concept power.

Keywords: Conceptual representation; Metaphor; Power; Vertical position.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Semantics*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Students
  • Universities
  • Vocabulary*
  • Young Adult