The spatial grounding of politics

Margarida V. Garrido*, Ana R. Farias, Oleksandr V. Horchak, Gün R. Semin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In three studies, we advance the research on the association between abstract concepts and spatial dimensions by examining the spatial anchoring of political categories in three different paradigms (spatial placement, memory, and classification) and using non-linguistic stimuli (i.e., photos of politicians). The general hypothesis that politicians of a conservative or socialist party are grounded spatially was confirmed across the studies. In Study 1, photos of politicians were spontaneously placed to the left or right of an unanchored horizontal line depending on their socialist-conservative party affiliation. In Study 2, the political orientation of members of parliament systematically distorted the recall of the spatial positions in which they were originally presented. Finally, Study 3 revealed that classification was more accurate and faster when the politicians were presented in spatially congruent positions (e.g., socialist politician presented on the left side of the monitor) rather than incongruent ones (e.g., socialist on the right side). Additionally, we examined whether participants’ political orientation and awareness moderated these effects and showed that spatial anchoring seems independent of political preference but increases with political awareness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-95
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


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