composition clustered/spread
adjective depth dimensiondepth dimension BACKdepth dimension FRONT

Clustered/spread is related to the contraction/expansion composition parameter. Also compare the open/closed parameter of shape.

Contraction and expansion are movements closely connected to temperature. Materials are made up of atoms. When heated the kinetic energy of that material increases and it’s atoms and molecules move about more. Due to it’s movement each atom will take up more space so the material will expand. When it is cold the kinetic energy decreases, so the atoms take up less space and the material contracts.

Temperature is an experience that gives meaning both in the depth (cold / warm) and in the width (cool / hot) dimension of the semantic space. Similarly the movement expand / contract can be understood in two meanings. In the depth the contraction has to do with turning the mind inwards, and the expansion with turning outwards. In the width dimension it is about activation, the contraction goes to a state of rest, the expansion to a state of activity and arousal.

Compare the switched close by/far away colour parameter (see COLOUR DISTANCE), where close by relates to the psychological trait of extraversion, namely the sociability, the need to join other people.

In the sense of clustered / spread, it must be viewed as an aspect of temperature, when they are cold people will crawl close together. It is the metaphor of the body that contracts with cold, arms pressed against the body, and expands with heat.


Arm movements and emotional expression

Sawada, Suda and Ishii (2003) investigated the relationships between the characteristics of arm movements (such as speed, strength, directness) and emotional expression. They found joy is portrayed with slow and less powerful movements. The difference with the expression of grief is that with joy the movements are in more different directions (more indirectness) and that the distance of the different movements is longer (more expansiveness).

Contraction and expansion

Simonds (1983) connects contraction and expansion with decrease and increase.

Double spiral jewel
Mary Harrsch, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Grave Goods of a 9th century BCE aristocratic woman buried near the royal tombs in the necropolis of Aigai 02. Date 9th century BCE.

expansive and contractive facial expression

“In 1978 psychologist John Bassili conducted an experiment in which he painted the faces and necks of several actors and actresses black and then applied one hundred luminescent dots. Participants were then asked to assume different expressions, such as ‘happy’, ‘sad’, ‘surprised’, and ‘angry’. In the final video recording, with only the luminescent dots visible, the outcome was quite revealing: while expressions of anger showed acute downward V shapes (angled eyebrows, cheeks, and chin), expressions of happiness were conveyed by expansive, outward curved patterns (arched cheeks, eyes, and mouth). In other words, happy faces resembled an expansive circle, while angry faces resembled a downward triangle.”

Lima, M. (2017)

Gathering and scattering

‘Bending all of our joints and curling up into a ball’. Laban called this gathering. Contrastingly, we can stretch all of our limbs into a star like position, stretching even our fingers, to extend our kinesphere. This is called scattering.
(Newlove, 2004)

Testosterone and shape

There is a possible relationship with the testosterone hormone. The amount of testosterone in the blood expresses the willingness to win and the degree of sense of domination. Carney et al. (2010) investigated the influence of different attitudes on the power radiation of the people, measured by two hormone values, cortisol and testosterone. The amount of cortisol is a measure of the amount of stress that a person has. The different attitudes that were tested differed in two non-verbal dimensions that are universally linked to power. These dimensions are: expansiveness: taking up more or less space, and openness: arms and legs together or spread out. People with an open and large posture have an increased amount of testosterone and a reduced amount of cortisol in the blood. With that, they radiate more power. In contrast, people with a closed and contracted posture have a reduced amount of testosterone and an increased amount of cortisol in the blood. That means that they are radiating more powerlessness.

The spiral

The spiral is a very old and widespread graphic symbol. It forms a dynamic system, which either contract or expand, the motion being either centripetal or centrifugal. Because of its similar shape to turbulences and whirlpools in liquids flowing downwards through an opening, such a symbol may indicate sinking into the ‘waters of death’. This could explain why such symbolic figures are often carved into boulders of prehistoric megalithic tombs. The double spiral connects both elements, contract/expand, into a unit. It can be seen as the ‘origin and decay’ and the reversibility of this process. The meaning of the triple spirals in prehistoric megalithic tombs can no longer be traced. The connection with the labyrinth also remains hypothetical, although the thought of a difficult way in and out again suggests a connection with the symbolism of dying and being reborn. (Biederman, 1992)