Embodied emotion concepts: How generating words about pride and disappointment influences posture



Embodiment theories predict that activating conceptual knowledge about emotions can be accompanied by re-experiencing bodily states, since simulations of sensory, motor, and introspective experiences form the foundation of conceptual representations of emotion. In the present study, we examine whether the activation of the specific emotion concepts of pride and disappointment are embodied in the sense that they are accompanied by changes in posture. Participants generated words associated with pride and disappointment while posture height was measured. Results show that during the generation of disappointment words participants decreased their posture height more than when participants generated pride words. This finding suggests that the activation of conceptual knowledge about disappointment can lead to a spontaneous expression of the associated body posture. In contrast to posture changes along the vertical axis, movement along the horizontal axis was not influenced by concept activation. In addition to bodily simulation the data also indicated introspective simulation, since feelings of disappointment increased after generating disappointment words. The current study provides the first evidence for the claim that the activation of conceptual knowledge about emotion can instantiate spontaneous simulations at a behavioral level. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.