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Living in the north is not necessarily favorable: Different metaphoric associations between cardinal direction and valence in Hong Kong and in the United States

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


The Conceptual Metaphor Theory (e.g., Lakoff & Johnson, ) suggests that people represent abstract concepts in terms of concrete concepts via metaphoric association. Participants in the United States (US) showed that cardinal direction (north/south) is metaphorically associated with valence (positive/negative), as reflected by their estimate for where a person with high or low socioeconomic status (SES) lives in a fictional city or their own living preference (Meier, Moller, Chen, & Riemer‐Peltz, ). The present study tested whether the cardinal direction–valence metaphoric association could be moderated by cultural differences. Although US participants believed that high‐SES and low‐SES individuals were more likely to live in the northern and southern part of the city, respectively, the reverse was so for Hong Kong (HK) participants (Study 1). When asked where they themselves would like to live, HK participants preferred to live in a southern area, whereas US participants showed no preference (Studies 2 and 3). These findings demonstrate cultural differences in metaphoric associations between cardinal direction and valence for HK and US participants. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.