Why we ‘fall’ in love and why we ‘raise’ a question?

By: Aish Gunti

Emotions and rationality are fundamental elements of life, yet difficult to define and interpret because of their abstract nature. Thus scholars from all over the world from centuries have associated physical elements to understand such abstract concepts. A recent study showed the existence of conceptual metaphors and their association with rationality and emotion. For example, love is a journey where abstract domain of love is made meaningful by associating it with the concrete domain of the journey. “This metaphor might lead one to think of lover as a fellow traveler, or of a shared life goal as destination.”

“In The Wizard of Oz, The Tin Man desires a heart because of his lack of emotions and Scarecrow desires a brain as he lacks intelligence.”

For centuries, humans tend to associate two concrete body parts- the head and the heart- with the more abstract concepts of rationality and emotion, respectively. Thus over time people tend to develop a conceptual link of rationality with ‘up’ or ‘higher’ and emotion with ‘down’ or ‘lower.’ Scholars like Plato and doctrines like Neo-Platonism claim such association have had an immense impact on contemporary culture, affecting even the vocabulary such as ‘falling in love’, and ‘thinking on a higher plane’.

Although rationality and emotion as drivers of human behavior have been intensively studied in consumer behavior since 1994, their relationship with physical verticality has been in the limelight only since 2015. Physical height is a type of concrete experience that has been linked metaphorically to a number of abstract concepts, which include but not limited to power, valence, morality and rationality. Experiments have been conducted to study the existence and association of such metaphors and the verticality domain. Results show that rationality is associated with a higher positioning than emotion along the vertical dimension and such a match will generate a greater positive response.

How different would it be if the word ‘hope’ was at the top of picture rather than the bottom in iconic Hope poster of Obama’s 2008 campaign?

Literature from marketing corroborates with such finding by how a match between physical position and product information increases product evaluation. However, such metaphorical association between verticality and rationality/emotion will be attenuated when people become aware of associations or brands. Thus when a consumer views an ad for an unfamiliar product, he/she forms an opinion based on cues from the ad when compared to a familiar product or brand. In the ‘Hope’ poster, placing hope at the bottom matches with its strong emotional association may not had influenced people with prior strong opinions about Obama, however, led to more positive attitude for those who were undecided or less opinionated.

Association between verticality and rationality/emotion is bidirectional.

Association between verticality and rationality/emotion is bidirectional unlike other abstract domains such as power or morality which are unidirectional. Thus to create an emotional appeal for a product it is recommended to position it lower rather than higher. Likewise a lower placed position is subconsciously associated with emotional domain and not associated with the abstract domain of power, i.e., regardless of positioning, power is always considered higher.

However, caution is suggested when using such metaphors to imply desired abstract domain. Such metaphors exert maximum influence when introduced subtly rather than blatantly, thus deserving more attention.

Information obtained can be applied to all elements of marketing communication as all visual formats from a printed page to a smartphone are an integral part of the process to integrate vertical placement.

It is recommended for marketers to take into consideration rational-emotional association while deciding on vertical positioning of products or information. However, verticality may at times have less of an effect on interpretation when individuals are familiar with a brand.

In conclusion, history has proved the existence of metaphorical association of abstract domains like rationality/emotion with concrete domains like head/heart, respectively and this association is vertical and bidirectional. Unfamiliar stimuli usually have a higher positive response based on such association, whereas previously existing knowledge of familiar stimuli is taken into consideration for decision making. Future research could focus on a subtle introduction of metaphors for maximum response versus a blatant approach.


Cian, Luca., Krishna, Aradhna., Schwarz, Norbert. (2015), “Positioning Rationality and Emotion: Rationality Is Up and Emotion Is Down,” Journal of Consumer Research, Dec2015, Vol. 42 Issue 4, p 632-651.

9 thoughts on “Why we ‘fall’ in love and why we ‘raise’ a question?

  1. latikakarnani May 8, 2016 / 9:29 pm

    I enjoyed learning about this concept. Before knowing this, I just thought The natural sequence for reading involves a very specific order. First we look at the image, if there is one. Then we scan the headline. Now , after reading this, it makes me wonder of many possible combinations. How can we make the text look more important than the visual. the various effects of positioning of images too. Very interesting


  2. Jing Wang May 8, 2016 / 10:26 pm

    Before I reading this, I never think about the such deep relationship between the science and emotion, Like the position of word in the poster is an important factors need to be considered. Marktering seems become more and more complex, which need to think too much factor to influence the customers. althoght it is a science-relative article, but I think it not boring, there are a lot of concept can afford us lessons that merit attention.


  3. Kathy Makiver May 8, 2016 / 11:34 pm

    Aish, this presentation was very interesting and informative. I knew a little about this but was still surprised at what the data proves about the position of words in a advertisement. The example of Hope on the Obama poster clarified how position of text influences our emotions and behavior. Great job!


  4. Jennifer Buonarosa May 9, 2016 / 2:36 am

    This was a very interesting article, I have never really paid much attention to the placement of titles on packaging before and I have noticed myself now checking them out. It amazes me how much marketers know about our habits.


  5. ssceery May 9, 2016 / 12:52 pm

    Great article and post Aish! This idea seems so simple on a broad scheme, especially when referred to the Wizard of Oz. This perception is in our everyday lives. We have conversations or discussions about relationships and interpersonal connections that tie back to this idea. Thinking about how to handle a situation with a colleague or confront a loved one, evaluating what type of rational or emotion to use. However, I’ve never really considered these types of decisions in consumer behavior and marketing.


  6. Julie Wusenich May 9, 2016 / 2:11 pm

    Excellent presentation, Aish! I loved learning more about this topic and how the placement of words can impact one’s decision and how it makes them feel ultimately. I’ve never given it much thought in the past, but will now be more aware as I making decisions around purchasing new products.


  7. Maria May 10, 2016 / 11:18 pm

    I enjoyed reading your post, Aish!

    I was thinking about rationality and emotions and how marketers can use this knowledge to their advantage, and it actually happens all of the time. When advertising products, advertisements tend to target the ’emotional’ part of our brain in order to relate their products to the consumers.

    An example is the ASPCA commercial with its sad song or the sad and abused animals – they’re trying to target customers’ compassionate side of their emotions in order to get them to donate to ASPCA. I also think that restaurants try to target the happy emotion in us by having us believe that their food makes you happy, such as McDonald’s ‘Happy Meal’ or putting words in your mouth by their slogan, “I’m Lovin’ It,” which, I think, will cause you to eventually believe it. And the Italian restaurant Olive Garden that shows family socializing while eating at their food.

    Companies might target your rational side by making you think that it ‘only makes sense to use their product,’ and the company that comes to mind is Apple. They advertise their iPhones, iTouch, etc. in a way that makes customers believe that their products are convenient because it has everything you need in a small device – you can write your essays, work on presentations, take notes, and so many other features, that, it is only rational for you to have and use their products!

    Marketers are clever, and there is such a thing as Marketing Psychology for this reason (there’s a psychologist in almost every career, even Game Design Psychologists)! Studying consumer behavior (how they shop, when do they tend to shop more, who do they shop for, why do they shop where they do, what are the products they buy, etc.) and their trends are helpful for companies to analyze what products they need, what industry to release in, how to position their products, and so on.

    Our cognition is important to marketers, it helps them tailor the products we need and it makes them money if we actually do use them!


  8. Nichole Urbanski May 11, 2016 / 6:09 pm

    This article was very interesting!! I really never thought about how people interpret and read things differently. I agree with Maria that marketers are clever. They find a way to almost suck you into buying their products. In a way they need to be able to stand out from others and allow their brand to be the best from what they are selling. In that sense, it is relevant as to why marketers do things the way that they do! If all of them do things the same way, then there really isn’t much competition or room for growth. Being different is important in the marketing world!


  9. Jessica May 12, 2016 / 6:45 pm

    I loved learning about this topic. As everyone else, i never thought there was a science behind the connections of emotions and it helps effect they way intake information. This is very beneficial for marketers to understand and how they can create an emotional interactions with just words and pictures. It shows marketing goes a lot deeper than we think. Very interesting and opened me up to view marketing in a very different way.


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