Oral approach–avoidance: Affective consequences of muscular articulation dynamics
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Can mouth movements shape attitudes? When people articulate different consonants (e.g., B or K) they press the tongue and the lips against various spots in the mouth. This allows for construction of words that feature systematic wanderings of consonantal stricture spots either from the front to the rear (inward; e.g., BENOKA) or from the rear to the front (outward; e.g., KENOBA) of the mouth. These wanderings of muscular strictures resemble the oral kinematics during either deglution
... eglution (swallowing-like, inward movement) or expectoration (spitting-like, outward movement). Thus, we predicted that the articulation of inward and outward words induces motivational states associated with deglutition and expectorationnamely, approach and avoidance-which was tested in 9 experiments (total N ϭ 822). Inward words were preferred over outward words, being labeled as nonsense words (Experiments 1, 4, 5, 6, and 9), company names (Experiment 2), or person names (Experiments 3, 7, and 8), with control words falling in between (Experiment 5). As a social-behavioral consequence, ostensible chat partners were more often chosen to interact with when having inward compared to outward names (Experiment 7). The effect was found in German-speaking (Experiments 1-5) and English-speaking (Experiment 6) samples, and it occurred even under silent reading (all experiments) and for negatively labeled targets (names of villains; Experiment 8). Showing articulation simulations as being the causal undercurrent, this effect was absent in aphasia patients who lacked covert subvocalizations (Experiment 9).