This chapter concerns embodiment and people's attitudes. Attitudes commonly refer to the general evaluations people hold regarding various objects, issues, and people (e.g., Petty & Cacioppo, 1981). The link between the attitude concept and bodily responses has a long history, going back to the use of the term attitude to refer to the posture of one's body (Galton, 1884) and to expressive motor behaviors (e.g., a scowling face was said to indicate a hostile attitude; Darwin, 1965). Today, we still ask for people's position on an issue though the meaning refers to an evaluative rather than a physical orientation.
In this chapter, we review research focused on the impact of a person's own bodily responses on attitudes such as when vertical head movements lead to more favorable attitudes than horizontal (Wells & Petty, 1980). As we describe in this review, a large number of bodily movements have been studied and many effects found. We use the term embodiment to refer to the idea that the body contributes to the acquisition, change, and use of attitudes.
We review contemporary social psychological literature with a focus on how the body can influence attitudes. In particular, we will: outline a general framework that articulates the key psychological processes by which one's body can affect attitudes; describe how different bodily postures and movements have been postulated to influence persuasion by each of these fundamental mechanisms; highlight a recently discovered new mechanism called self-validation and describe how this mechanism can contribute to understanding bodily influences on evaluation; and outline some remaining issues and directions for future research.