Predicting cross-modal associations between aggression, brightness, and colour with the OPAC context model

Schietecat, A.C., Lakens, D., de Kort, Y.A.W. & IJsselsteijn, W.A. (submitted). Predicting cross-modal associations between aggression, brightness, and colour with the OPAC context model. Conferentiebijdrage CERE Emotion Conference 2016 July 6 -7, 2016, Leiden, The Netherlands.


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Although researchers have repeatedly shown that the affective meaning of the same concept can vary across different contexts, it has proven difficult to predict when people will assign which meaning to a concept. To understand when and how the affective meaning of a concept is activated in specific contexts, we propose a multidimensional context model, the OPAC (opposition & activation) context model, based on the affective theory of meaning (Osgood, Suci, & Tannenbaum, 1957) and the polarity correspondence principle (Proctor & Cho, 2006).

At the core of this model lies the idea that cross-modal associations emerge based on the distances between opposing concepts on the dimensions of meaning (i.e., evaluation, activity, & potency dimension), leading to one salient dimension, on which concepts in turn are mapped according to the attribution of plus and minus poles. To test the OPAC context model, we conducted 5 series of experiments, in which we predicted cross-modal associations between aggression-related concepts and colours (i.e., red versus green and red versus blue), saturation, and brightness. We manipulated the context by means of adjusting the opposing stimuli (Experiment 1 and 2), the presentation of the stimulus (Experiment 3 and 4), and the labels in the task (Experiment 5). For this, we used implicit association tests as well as explicit association tasks. Our data show that the relative differences between colour or light characteristics can be associated with conceptual differences between calmness and aggression in specific contexts, which in turn can be predicted with the use of the OPAC context model. We will discuss the potential of the OPAC context model for understanding and predicting how the context can influence the activation of emotional concepts.