Social context modulates the effect of physical warmth on perceived interpersonal kindness: a study of embodied metaphors
abstract Physical contact with hot vs. iced coffee has been shown to affect evaluation of the personal warmth or kindness of a hypothetical person (Williams & Bargh, 2008). In three studies, we investigated whether the manipulation of social context can modulate the activation of the metaphorical mapping, kindness as warmth. After priming participants with warm vs. cold temperature, we asked them to evaluate a hypothetical ad-hoc ally or adversary on the kindness dimension, as well as on other qualities used as a control. We expected more extreme evaluations of kindness in the adversary than in the ally condition, and no effects on other ratings. We thus replicated the classical effect of physical warmth on kindness ratings and generalized it to a German-speaking population. In addition, when the two German studies were combined, we found evidence suggesting a contextual modulation of the temperature effect: only out-group members, namely adversaries, were judged as more kind when participants had experienced physical warmth; the effect was not evident in the ally (i.e., in-group) condition. These studies suggest that context can modulate metaphorical activation; they therefore represent an initial attempt to add nuance to our understanding of when embodied metaphors affect our decisions.
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