A simple but elegant study just published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that getting people to generate words about pride caused them to unknowingly raise their posture, while asking them to generate words about disappointment led to an involuntary slouch.
The research team, led by psychologist Suzanne Oosterwijk, asked people to list words related to ‘pride’ and ‘disappointment’, and some emotionally neutral control categories of ‘kitchen’ and ‘bathroom’, while being secretly filmed.
‘Pride’ caused a slight increase in posture height, while ‘disappointment’ caused the participants to markedly slouch.
The researchers suggest that the activation of the concept of disappointment led to a spontaneous bodily simulation of the feeling. They link this to the idea of embodied cognition that suggests that our mental life is fundamentally connected to acting on the world.
As we discussed last year, research has suggested that bodily expressions of pride and shame are the same across cultures, indicating that this connection between action and emotion may be a core part of our emotional make-up.