Similarity and Proximity: When Does Close in Space Mean Close in Mind?

Memory & Cognition, Vol. 36, No. 6, pp. 1047-1056, 2008

10 Pages Posted: 12 May 2009

See all articles by Daniel Casasanto

Daniel Casasanto

The New School for Social Research

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

People often describe things that are similar as close and things that are dissimilar as far apart. Does the way people talk about similarity reveal something fundamental about the way they conceptualize it? Three experiments tested the relationship between similarity and spatial proximity that is encoded in metaphors in language. Similarity ratings for pairs of words or pictures varied as a function of how far apart the stimuli appeared on the computer screen, but the influence of distance on similarity differed depending on the type of judgments the participants made. Stimuli presented closer together were rated more similar during conceptual judgments of abstract entities or unseen object properties but were rated less similar during perceptual judgments of visual appearance. These contrasting results underscore the importance of testing predictions based on linguistic metaphors experimentally and suggest that our sense of similarity arises from our ability to combine available perceptual information with stored knowledge of experiential regularities.

Keywords: Metaphor, Space, Similarity

Suggested Citation

Casasanto, Daniel, Similarity and Proximity: When Does Close in Space Mean Close in Mind? (2008). Memory & Cognition, Vol. 36, No. 6, pp. 1047-1056, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1402162

Daniel Casasanto (Contact Author)

The New School for Social Research ( email )

6 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.casasanto.com

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