Positioning Rationality and Emotion: Rationality is Up and Emotion is Down
20 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2015 Last revised: 18 Jan 2016
Date Written: December 3, 2015
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: Suggested Citation