Preferences surf on the currents of words: Implicit verb causality influences evaluative conditioning



It is a psychological truism that thought shapes language. However, the idea that language constrains cognition is less well understood and has been debated in philosophy, linguistic, and psychology. The goal of the present research was to investigate the influence of language, as given in linguistic categories, on the formation of evaluations in an interpersonal impression formation context. Specifically, we examined the role of different verb classes in the formation of interpersonal (dis-)likes within an evaluative conditioning (EC) paradigm. EC refers to the change in liking in a conditioned stimulus (CS) as a result of its' pairing with an unconditioned stimulus (US). In contrast to traditional EC accounts that assume the rigid and unrestricted change in valence due to CS–US co-occurrence, we found that EC was moderated by language, that is, by the linguistic status of the US. Theoretical implications of these findings are discussed. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.