When up Brings you Down: The Effects of Imagined Vertical Movements on Motivation, Performance, and Consumer Behavior

Massimiliano Ostinelli*, David Luna*, Torsten Ringberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Previous embodied cognition research suggests that “up” is associated with positivity (e.g., good, divine), whereas “down” is associated with negativity (e.g., bad, evil). We focus on the effect of vertical movements on consumer behavior and go beyond investigating mere affective associations of verticality. In five studies, we provide evidence that the mental simulation of vertical movements has counterintuitive effects on behavior—that is, imagining moving up hampers motivation and performance by boosting self-worth. A pilot study shows that the imagination of vertical movements affects self-worth. Studies 1, 2 and 3 show that imagining upward movements (e.g., taking an elevator ride up or taking off in an airplane) diminishes motivation as well as performance. Studies 4 and 5 show that imagining moving upward (downward) makes people feel better (worse) about themselves which, in turn, decreases (increases) their motivation to succeed on a subsequent task, hence worsening (improving) performance. This occurs independently of respondents' mood.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)271-283
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Embodied cognition
  • Mental simulation
  • Mental imagery
  • Self-worth
  • Compensatory consumer behavior

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