Grounding Social Embodiment
Social embodiment research examines how thoughts, affect, and behavior is influenced by sensory, motor, and perceptual cues in the environment. It has repeatedly received criticism due to a focus on demonstration studies. Here, I aim to identify some of the possible reasons underlying the lack of theoretical progress. First, I warn against relying too strongly on inductive inferences due to the weak empirical support for social embodiment findings. Second, I will discuss two dominant theoretical frameworks in social embodiment research (conceptual metaphor theory and perceptual symbol systems theory) in light of their potential to inspire empirically testable hypotheses. Finally, I propose that one way to turn social embodiment research into a progressive research line is to integrate it more firmly with past theoretical work in social cognition, and focus on understanding the contexts in which concrete cues in the environment are salient and accessible enough to influence social inferences.