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DFG Research Unit FOR 2150 | Relativity in Social Cognition

Verticality and Social Upward/ Downward Comparisons

Sascha TopolinskiJan CrusiusJudith Gerten

This project investigates the influence of spatial codes on comparative thinking, a causal role that has not yet been addressed in research on comparative thinking. In accordance with linguistic metaphors, societal display rules, and evidence on vertical space and value associations we predict that there is a multi-modal association between spatial top (bottom) positions and high (low) values. In Phase I we addressed basic comparison tasks in which participants had to compare the physical size of a target stimulus (e.g., a letter) with the size of a simultaneously presented standard stimulus. We manipulated the vertical position (top vs. bottom) of both target and standard orthogonally to each other. We found that upward comparisons (the standard is larger than the target) were facilitated when the standard was presented on a top position and the target on a bottom position (compared to the reversed vertical arrangement, while downward comparisons (the standard is smaller than the target) were facilitated when the standard was bottom and the target was top. The present phase generalizes this set-up to social comparisons of standards and targets being persons. In work package (WP) A we investigate social comparisons of morality and corruptness; in WP B we will focus on social-comparison based-emotions, such as pride, envy, and schadenfreude. Finally, in WP C we use vertical position as a means to gauge to what extent certain social emotions are susceptible to status-related information.

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Prof. Dr. Sascha Topolinski
PI | Verticality

Universität zu Köln

Social and Economic Cognition II
Richard-Strauss-Str. 2
50931 Köln | GERMANY

Telephone +49-221-470-2060
E-mail sascha.topolinski(at)