No effect of weight on judgments of importance in the moral domain and evidence of publication bias from a meta-analysis

Andre L. A. Rabelo, Victor N. Keller, Ronaldo Pilati, Jelte M. Wicherts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In different cultures, people use the concept of weight to refer to important matters. Recent studies in grounded cognition suggested that experiences of weight affect unrelated judgments of importance in metaphor-congruent ways. Theories in grounded cognition and prime-to-behavior effects state that sensations of weight activate concepts of importance, which may affect morality-related variables that are influenced by judgments of importance. The present research aimed to test the effect of carrying a heavy (or light) clipboard on the perceived importance of helping and on the judged severity of moral transgressions. After finding no significant effects in two experiments, a third study explored whether these results were due to a specific lack of effect of weight on morality-related variables or to the concept of importance not being grounded in sensations of weight in Brazilian samples. Specifically, in Study 3 we attempted to replicate two seminal studies but found no significant effects. Together with evidence of publication bias in a meta-analysis of published studies, the current results suggest that the concept of importance may not be as universally grounded in sensations of weight as previously assumed. We discuss the implications of these results for grounded cognition theories and methodological and statistical aspects of priming studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0134808
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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