University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business

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Going Against the Flow: The Effects of Dynamic Orientational Metaphors on Consumer Choice

Author(s): Mina Kwon, Rashmi Adaval

Status: Accepted
Year: 2017
Publication Name: Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press


Past research shows that bodily experiences can activate concepts to which they are metaphorically linked and can influence judgments in other unrelated domains. Although some studies have focused on experiences that have a direct semantic correspondence to the target being judged (e.g., experience of physical warmth affects judgments of how “warm” a person is, experience of a fishy odor leads people to consider something as “fishy or suspicious” etc.), other embodied experiences do not fall into this category because they have a dynamic, directional character that is hard to capture in pure semantic terms (e.g., the experience of running one’s hands through water or stroking the fur of a pet in a particular direction). I suggest that these experiences have not only a sensory aspect (e.g., “wet” or “soft”) but a motor component as well that suggests movement in a specific direction. Captured linguistically in what are called dynamic orientation metaphors, the motor component of such experiences is important because it suggests movement in a particular direction. Characteristics of the movement (type and direction) have implications for behavior. I examine one such experience, the physical experience of going against the flow, and show how it can influence judgments and decisions in two different domains: Consumer choice and persuasion. I show in a series of experiments that the sensorimotor experience of going against the flow affects the choices consumers make with participants picking products that are normatively less preferred. Further, I find that this effect only holds when the sensorimotor sensation is self-experienced and when people have to rely on their own internal sense of flow (i.e., when there is no external norm provided). When extended to the persuasion domain, I find that these experiences affect an individual’s desire to resist a persuasive message. A series of studies also shows that this effect is more evident when the experience is acquired actively (i.e., is volitional). This research important because it moves the embodied cognition literature from work that explores sensations that have descriptive terms in language to a consideration of more dynamic sensations that have a motor aspect. Such experiences, because they involve action and direction, possess the power to alter not only what people choose in unrelated situations (i.e., their behavior) but also their inclination to protest against a persuasive message.


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