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A reaction time study testing interactions between gender and the psychological reality of the vertical image schema for hierarchy

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

Publication date19/07/2016
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventUK Cognitive Linguistics Conference 2016 - Bangor University, Bangor, United Kingdom
Duration: 19/07/201622/07/2016


ConferenceUK Cognitive Linguistics Conference 2016
Abbreviated titleUK CLC 16
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


According to the embodied metaphor hypothesis, metaphor is thought to derive
unconsciously from experiential gestalts relating to our body’s movements, its orientation in
space, and its interactions with objects (Johnson, 1987). One embodied metaphor suggests
that POWER IS UP and LACK OF POWER IS DOWN. Reaction time studies have shown
that people judge a group’s social power to be greater when the group is presented at the top
of a computer screen than when it is presented in the lower part of the screen (Schubert,
In our study, we factored gender into Schubert’s experiment by including matched pairs of
gendered prompts, such as waiter/waitress, maid/manservant, king/queen, and so on. Our
hypothesis was that the relationship between the prompt’s power and its position in the
hierarchy would be even stronger when powerful, male prompts appear at the top of the
screen and when less powerful, female prompts appear at the bottom of the screen. Such a
finding would provide empirical evidence for a subconscious gender bias in our participants.
We were also interested to see whether such a bias is equally strong for male, female and
transgender participants. 60 participants (25 male, 25 female and 10 transgender)
participated in a reaction time study to measure the relationship between gender, vertical
positioning and perceptions of hierarchy. In this paper, we report the findings from our study
and discuss their implications