Emotional valence and physical space: Limits of interaction

Irmgard de la Vega, Mónica De Filippis, Martin Lachmair, Carolin Dudschig, Barbara Kaup

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According to the body-specificity hypothesis, people associate positive things with the side of space that corresponds to their dominant hand, and negative things with the side corresponding to their non-dominant hand. Our aim was to find out whether this association holds also true for a response time study employing linguistic stimuli, and whether such an association is activated automatically. Four experiments explored this association using positive and negative words. In Exp. 1, right-handers made a lexical judgment by pressing a left or right key. Attention was not explicitly drawn to the valence of the stimuli. No valence-by-side interaction emerged. In Exp. 2 and 3, right-handers and left-handers made a valence judgment by pressing a left or a right key. A valence-by-side interaction emerged: For positive words, responses were faster when participants responded with their dominant hand, whereas for negative words, responses were faster for the non-dominant hand. Exp. 4 required a valence judgment without stating an explicit mapping of valence and side. No valence-by-side interaction emerged. The experiments provide evidence for an association between response side and valence, which, however, does not seem to be activated automatically but rather requires a task with an explicit response mapping to occur.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 38(2), 375-385


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