“Heavy of Mouth” and “Heavy of Tongue”: Weight as a Conceptual Metaphor of Disability

Chani Stroch, Ravit Nussinson, Sari Mentser, Yoav Bar-Anan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We suggest that disability is metaphorically represented in people’s minds as heaviness. In three studies we demonstrate the existence of a mental association between physical weight (light vs. heavy) and disability (non-disabled vs. disabled) as well as its bi-directional causal effects (from weight to disability and from disability to weight). In Study 1 (N = 250), participants exhibited the hypothesized association between the dimensions on both a direct and an indirect measure. Study 2 (N = 191) demonstrated that perceived weight affects the perceived severity of a disability, with the weight of a clipboard held by participants affecting perceptions of a target person’s stutter or limp. Study 3 (N = 103) testified to the reverse effect: participants who heard a monologue by someone with a pronounced (as opposed to mild) stutter perceived the clipboard they were holding as heavier and estimated its weight in grams as higher. Our findings may suggest that experiences of weight affect both estimates of the prevalence of disabilities in others and in the self as well as level of identification with the disabled. Theoretical implications are discussed as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-208
Number of pages12
JournalMetaphor and Symbol
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Open University of Israel. We are grateful to Yifat Weiss and Maya Zadka for their assistance in data collection. We are grateful to Patr?cia Arriaga, Asmir Gra?anin, Ljiljiana Lazarevic, and Beate Seibt for their assistance in this work. We are grateful to Meira Ben-Gad for her assistance in copyediting.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


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