When the Spatial and Ideological Collide: Metaphorical Conflict Shapes Social Perception

Tali Kleiman*, Chadly Stern, Yaacov Trope

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In the present article, we introduce the concept of metaphorical conflict—a conflict between the concrete and abstract aspects of a metaphor. We used the association between the concrete (spatial) and abstract (ideological) components of the political left-right metaphor to demonstrate that metaphorical conflict has marked implications for cognitive processing and social perception. Specifically, we showed that creating conflict between a spatial location and a metaphorically linked concept reduces perceived differences between the attitudes of partisans who are generally viewed as possessing fundamentally different worldviews (Democrats and Republicans). We further demonstrated that metaphorical conflict reduces perceived attitude differences by creating a mind-set in which categories are represented as possessing broader boundaries than when concepts are metaphorically compatible. These results suggest that metaphorical conflict shapes social perception by making members of distinct groups appear more similar than they are generally thought to be. These findings have important implications for research on conflict, embodied cognition, and social perception.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)375-383
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2016.


  • open data
  • priming
  • social cognition


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