Emerging evidence has shown that human thought can be embodied within physical sensations and actions. Indeed, abstract concepts such as morality, time, and interpersonal warmth can be based on metaphors that are grounded in bodily experiences (e.g., physical temperature can signal interpersonal warmth). We hypothesized that social-category knowledge is similarly embodied, and we tested this hypothesis by examining a sensory metaphor related to categorical judgments of gender. We chose the dimension of "toughness" (ranging from tough to tender), which is often used to characterize differences between males and females. Across two studies, the proprioceptive experience of toughness (vs. tenderness) was manipulated as participants categorized sex-ambiguous faces as male or female. Two different manipulations of proprioceptive toughness predictably biased the categorization of faces toward "male." These findings suggest that social-category knowledge is at least partially embodied.
Slepian, Michael, M. Weisbuch, N.O. Rule, and N. Ambady. "Tough and tender: Embodied categorization of gender." Psychological Science 22, no. 1 (January 2011): 26-28.
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