Experimental Social Psychology Journal - Essay Prowess

Experimental Social Psychology Journal


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Experimental Social Psychology Journal

Topic 1

“How extending your middle finger affects your perception of others: Learned movements influence concept accessibility”

  1. Description of a swearing-related phenomenon

The stretched middle finger is a prevalent gesture illustrating hostility in the United States. Therefore, observing others as unfriendly can elicit others to protract their middle finger. Moreover, it is also likely that protracting the middle finger can increase the hostility of other persons. The article by Chandler & Schwarz, (2009) examined whether symbolic movements of the body influence the understanding of ambiguous traits by raising the availability of acquired movement-congruent ideas. In addition, movement of the body illustrates and affects the manner in which individuals think and feel. Ideation of this bidirectional sway adopt that concept-movement relationship can be learned or innate (Chandler & Schwarz, 2009). However, information for learned relationship remains unclear.

The scholars established that protracting the middle finger, provides a hostile gesture to the people. On the other hand, extending a thumb highlights a more common evaluative undertone of a positive meaning. In the first study, they also found out that when individuals protract their middle finger toward other people, it leads to a more unfriendly impression. Nonetheless, it does not influence impression along non-hostile, unrelated dimensions. On the contrary, the second study discovered that “thumbs up” provokes more positive meaning that is across all trait dimensions (Chandler & Schwarz, 2009). Therefore, they noted those pragmatic trait-precise impacts of hostility primes and more generalized impacts of international evaluative primes implying that bodily gestures can prime randomly related concepts with downstream impacts on the formation of gesture.

  1. Summary and evaluation of the evidence that this phenomenon is real

Empirical evidence indicates that a wide range of motor movements such as hand configurations, arm movements, posture, and facial expressions can affect the feelings and thoughts. The influences have been identified for different functions including cognitive style, problem solving, spatial representation, memory, and emotional experience (Chandler & Schwarz, 2009). As the initiation of motor movements associated to a concept rises it also raises the accessibility of the idea, affecting feelings and thoughts to which the idea is appropriate.

The large proportions of motor movements such as bodily expressions are due to emotional experience. Moreover, the effects of learned movements upon cognition and affect have concentrated on the evaluative impacts of shaking or head-nodding and the effect of sluggish actions on the availability of typecasts of the aging (Chandler & Schwarz, 2009). In addition, imitating motor movements related to a certain type of individual raises the convenience of associated person concepts.

  1. Description of two competing explanations for it

The first study focused on the impacts of protracted middle finger on the assessment of people for an ambiguous target. The second study assessed the impacts of protracted thumb when assess the ambiguous target. Each of these two gestures have a culture-based meanings constrained in time and space (Chandler & Schwarz, 2009). In the Western culture, showing the middle finger demonstrate hostility which can be drawn from ancient Greece and was regarded as lustful sexual sign. In modern times, the gesture has ambiguous meaning. Therefore, sometimes it is used to represent defiance while in other instances it used in conflict circumstances and strictly linked with hostility. However, the use of the gesture is not linked with other negative meaning such the funeral of family members. On the other hand, the “thumbs up” is also specific to culture which was used since ancient Rome. In modernity, it is used to demonstrate optimism or approval.

  1. Review of existing evidence, if any, that support one explanation over the other

The findings of the study established that study subjects who protracted their middle finger while interpreting a report of a vaguely hostile individual rated the individual as more hostile. Essentially, the effect of finger movement was restricted to rankings of hostility associated behaviors and did not simplify to scores of other characters. For this reason, the middle finger was a significantly related to hostile gesture and was related to the idea of hostility (Chandler & Schwarz, 2009). The findings of this study backed the hypothesis that movement of the body can prime associated concepts, even when the concept-movement relationship is specific to culture and arbitrary.

Moreover, the “thumbs up” provided a more internationally evaluative concept. It delivers general optimism and approval hence contrasts the “middle finger” in valence and specificity. In addition, the protracted thumb had not impact on self-reported emotion, highlighting that the observed impacts are not mediated by the emotional experience of participants (Chandler & Schwarz, 2009). Therefore, the study concluded that the movement of the body can determine related concepts even when the concept-movement relationship is specific to culture and arbitrary.

  1. Identification of additional data that would be necessary to conclusively tell which explanation is correct. (Each explanation should make a different prediction about the results of future observations)

Showing the thumb or middle finger while analyzing about the obscurely hostile people affected the formation of impression in a manner that is linked to the impacts of semantic training processes. Fundamentally, participants who protracted the middle finger while talking about a description of a vaguely hostile individual indicated that the target is more hostile as compared to persons who protracted their index finger (Chandler & Schwarz, 2009). On the contrary, evaluations of unrelated behaviors were not substantially influenced by the motor movement. Such trait-based impacts correspond to the effects of character learning and are constant with precisely hostile inference of “the finger.” In addition, study subjects who used the “thumbs up” while analyzing the same content assessed the individual more favorably across all characters as compared to women who used their index finger. The universal impacts matches the widespread impacts of evaluative semantic peaks such as “good” and is constant with the international endorsement undertones of the “thumbs up”.


Chandler, J., & Schwarz, N. (2009). How extending your middle finger affects your perception of others: Learned movements influence concept accessibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology45(1), 123-128.