Positioning Rationality and Emotion: Rationality is Up and Emotion is Down

20 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2015 Last revised: 18 Jan 2016

See all articles by Luca Cian

Luca Cian

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Aradhna Krishna

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Norbert Schwarz

University of Southern California - Department of Psychology

Date Written: December 3, 2015

Abstract

Emotion and rationality are fundamental elements of human life. They are abstract concepts, often difficult to define and grasp. Thus throughout the history of Western society, the head and the heart, concrete and identifiable elements, have been used as symbols of rationality and emotion. Drawing on the conceptual metaphor framework, we propose that people understand the abstract concepts of rationality and emotion using knowledge of a more concrete concept — the vertical difference between the head and heart. In six studies, we show a deep-seated conceptual metaphorical relationship linking rationality with “up” or “higher” and emotion with “down” or “lower.” We show that the association between verticality and rationality/emotion affects how consumers perceive information and thereby has downstream consequences on attitudes and preferences. We find the association to be most influential when consumers are unaware of it and when it applies to an unfamiliar stimulus. Because all visual formats — from the printed page to screens on a television, computer, or smartphone — entail a vertical placement, this association has important managerial implications. Our studies implement multiple methodologies and technologies and use manipulations of logos, websites, food advertisements, and political slogans.

Keywords: rationality, emotion, vertical placement, conceptual metaphor, marketing communication, visual persuasion, object positioning, consumer behavior

JEL Classification: M3

Suggested Citation

Cian, Luca and Krishna, Aradhna and Schwarz, Norbert, Positioning Rationality and Emotion: Rationality is Up and Emotion is Down (December 3, 2015). Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 42, No. 4, 2015; Darden Business School Working Paper No. 2698689. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2698689

Luca Cian (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Aradhna Krishna

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

Norbert Schwarz

University of Southern California - Department of Psychology ( email )

3620 S. McClintock Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061
United States

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