Why do events seem more important when consumers think about weight?

November 15, 2011

Toting a heavy item around may cause you to judge an issue to be more important, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. But, interestingly, so does thinking about the concept of weight.

"Prior research has shown that the physical experience of carrying weight can influence people's judgment in unrelated domains such as the importance of an event," write authors Meng Zhang (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Xiuping Li (National University of Singapore). "In this research we investigate how such an influence happens and when it will happen."

In their research the authors measured consumer responses to actually carrying weight as well as their reactions to being primed to think about the concept of weight. The authors found that the metaphorical associations people form are just as important as the physical weight they carry.

In one study, the authors asked some participants to hold shopping bags full of water bottles. Others read a paragraph that described a heavy-duty , which included weight-related terms ("heavy," "tons," and "loaded"). They asked participants to give an opinion on an unrelated topic: whether it was important to list on products. The participants who were primed to think about weight responded much like the people who actually carried weight. They thought the issue was more important than participants who weren't weighed down—metaphorically or literally.

In another experiment, who carried heavy loads were instructed to think about light objects, like balloons and feathers. When they did so, the effect of the physical weight experience on their judgment was eliminated.

"The physical experience can directly cause the mental state or abstract ," the authors write. "The results of our five experiments, however, show that weight experience relies on people's subjective inference to exert its effect."

Explore further: The Link Between Weight and Importance

More information: Meng Zhang and Xiuping Li. "From Physical Weight to Psychological Significance: The Contribution of Semantic Activations." Journal of Consumer Research: April 2012 (published online July 18, 2011).

Related Stories

The Link Between Weight and Importance

August 27, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study has demonstrated what we must have known all along at some level: that there is a link between the physical act of carrying heavy objects and the abstract concept of importance.

Does seeing overweight people make us eat more?

April 19, 2011

Consumers will choose and eat more indulgent food after they see someone who is overweight—unless they consciously think about their health goals, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Rapid weight loss may herald Alzheimer's

September 12, 2006

U.S. researchers say the slow, steady weight loss associated with aging may speed up prior to the onset of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

Being overweight just as risky to health as being a smoker

February 25, 2009

Obese adolescents have the same risk of premature death in adulthood as people who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day, while those who are overweight have the same risk as less heavy smokers, according to research published ...

A doctor's words can enforce weight stigma

September 26, 2011

The language that health care providers use when discussing a child's weight with parents can reinforce negative weight-based stigma and jeopardize discussions about health, finds a study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy ...

Recommended for you

80-million-year-old dinosaur collagen confirmed

January 23, 2017

Utilizing the most rigorous testing methods to date, researchers from North Carolina State University have isolated additional collagen peptides from an 80-million-year-old Brachylophosaurus. The work lends further support ...

Archaeologists uncover new clues to Maya collapse

January 23, 2017

Using the largest set of radiocarbon dates ever obtained from a single Maya site, archaeologists have developed a high-precision chronology that sheds new light on patterns leading up to the two major collapses of the ancient ...

New ancient otter species among largest ever found

January 23, 2017

Dr. Denise Su, curator and head of paleobotany and paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was co-author on new research that described a species of otter new to science and that is among the largest otter ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.