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

Body movements both express and influence how people feel and think. Conceptualizations of this bidirectional influence assume that movement-concept associations can be innate or learned, although evidence for learned associations remained ambiguous. Providing a conservative test of learned movement-concept associations, two studies investigate the influence of culture-specific body movements, which involve an arbitrary relationship between movements and associated concepts. Paralleling the influence of hostility primes, extending the middle finger influenced the interpretation of ambiguously aggressive behaviors as hostile, but did not influence unrelated trait judgments (Study 1). Paralleling the effects of global evaluative primes, upward extension of the thumb resulted in more positive evaluations of the same target along all trait dimensions and higher liking of the target (Study 2). [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]