Heavy news. Weighty issues. Lending weight to an argument. Opinions carrying weight.
Gravity isn’t just a metaphysical force or natural phenomenon – it even exerts a compelling force on the words we use, imbuing it with importance, and affecting the way we think.
Click start to play today’s Word Search, where you can find various forms of measurement.
It’s an aspect of what scientists call the theory of embodied cognition – the idea that the mind is not only connected to the body, but that the body influences the mind.
To prove that there is an undeniable link in our mind between weight and importance, researchers from the University of Amsterdam conducted a number of experiments. The results were published in a September 2009 paper in the US-based journal Psychological Science.
The researchers separated volunteers into two groups, giving one group a clipboard that weighed 68 grams, and the other group a clipboard weighing a little over 1kg. They then showed the volunteers a scenario involving an act of injustice: a university committee denying students the opportunity to voice their opinions on a study grant. The volunteers who held the heavier clipboard reacted with greater outrage, stating that they felt it was important for the university to listen to students’ opinions.
Three other experiments were conducted, all with results indicating that people are less likely to take matters lightly if they are holding something heavy in their hands. The group members with the heavier object were also more confident in their opinions, and less likely to dawdle on the fence.
One reason why scientists think the brain makes the link between weight and importance, is because of early childhood experiences. Children rapidly learn that heavy objects need more effort to deal with, and even a little planning. Our brain then relies on these physical experiences when it is presented with more abstract concepts, like an important or weighty issue. The two then become linked, so that physical experience impacts abstract thought.
The theory of embodied cognition reveals several other interesting connections, according to an August 2009 report in National Geographic. For instance, just the act of warming our hands has been known to make us socially warmer people, and it’s why social exclusion literally feels cold. Thinking clean thoughts is also known to soften moral judgments, while immoral thoughts can trigger a need for better physical hygiene.