PD Dr. Sabine C. Koch, Universität Heidelberg  |    Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Fuchs, Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik Heidelberg   |   Prof.Dr.Cornelia Müller, Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder


Körpersprache von Tanz und Bewegung

Bedeutungsemergenz, Versprachlichung und therapeutische Nutzung

BMBF-Förderrichtlinie "Übersetzungsfunktion der Geisteswissenschaften"


Project Closing Event
17. Herbstakademie







Movement and Meaning

Sabine Koch & Atsrid Kolter


Within the scope of the psychological embodiment approaches, experiments which examine the relation between movement and meaning are conducted. Past research demonstrated that such a relation exists for example between approach motor behaviour and positive attitude and avoidance motor behaviour and negative attitude (Cacioppo, Priester & Berntson, 1993; Neumann & Strack, 2000; Wentura, Rothermund & Bak, 2000; or Raab & Green, 2005).

Based on the theorizing of Barbara Tversky (2008; 2009) and Conceptual Methaphor Theory of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999), we examine the so called “spatial bias”, i.e. the effects of congruence and incongruence between movement and meaning in one of three movement axes. Spatial bias reveals in Cassirer’s terminology (1925) an "inequivalence" of the space directions that accounts for psychological differences on the basis of a contingency between space direction and „specific organ sensations“. 

The implications of movement directions for meaning have been examined in the horizontal movement axis (Casasanto, 2009; Maass & Russo, 2003), the in the vertical movement axis (Schubert, 2005; Meier & Robinson, 2006) and in the sagittal movement axis (Koch, Holland, Hengstler, & Knippen­berg, 2009). However, research on the sagittal movement axis has in the latter study been confounded with approach and avoidance motor behaviour.

We will thus start by investigating the sagittal dimension and its semantic implications (terminology derived from Bartenieff & Lewis, 1980; Kestenberg Amighi et al., 1999; Laban, 1980).

„People have 3 primary axes, two asymmetric, one from head to foot and another from front to back, and a third more or less symmetric axis from left to right. These facts about their bodies and the world affect people's perception of the world and their behavior in it, and in turn, bias spatial thinking as well as metaphoric spatial thinking.” (Tversky, 2008)

The results of the "spatial bias" research resonate with basic assumptions of clinical movement analysis. They are supported by and can be extended through the theories of Laban (1980) and Kestenberg (1995). So far, the sagittal movement axis is the one with the scarcest empirical evidence on related meaning dimensions.

However, the underlying unequivalence is known. In phenomenology, Sheets-Johnstone (1999) states that bodies have a front and a back and move more easily to the front than to the back (Sheets-Johnstone, 1999). Backward motion has other psychological implications than forward motion (e.g., Koch, Holland, Hengstler, & Knippenberg, 2009); we appreciate the space behind our back in another way than the space in front of us (Gendlin, 2005). This asymmetry in our bodily grounding in the world has specific cognitive implications (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999; Tversky, 2008). 


Webmaster: E-Mail
Last update: 30.05.2012