composition top/bottom
basis height dimensionheight dimension TOPheight dimension BOTTOM

There is a connection with the Waist-to-Hip ratio. An aspect of gender is related to top or bottom area attention in a shape or composition. In the height dimension of the semantic space it applies to dominance and to masculine and feminine in a psychological sense, instead of in a physical sense as is the case with the Waist-to-Hip ratio which operates on the breath dimension of the semantic space.

The higher the bulge on the top of an object, the more aggressiveness it radiates. (Roebers, 2013)

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.

Lakoff and Johnson (1999) saw that there are many proverbs and sayings that have to do with form characteristics and emotions.

  • Above / high: better, powerful, good, positive, important, wealth, luxury, expensive, overfull, high regard, visible, bossy, ambitious, risky, distinguished, conceited, information-rich, certainty.
  • Under / deep / low: less good, submissive, shabby, problematic, less important, fear, negative, broken, distrusted.


Innate programming of up and down in chicks

Newly hatched baby chicks peck at photographs of simulated grains, and strongly prefer them if lit as if from above. Turn the photograph over and they shun it. This seems to show that baby chicks ‘know’ that light in their world normally comes from above. But since they have only just hatched out of the egg, how do they know? Have they learned it during their three days of life? It is perfectly possible, but I tested it experimentally and found it not to be so. I raised chicks and tested them in a special cage in which only light they ever saw came from below. Experience of pecking grain in this upside-down world would, if anything, teach them to prefer upside-down photographs of solid grains. Instead, they behaved exactly like normal chicks raised in the real world with light coming from above. Apparently because of genetic programming, all the chicks prefer to peck at photographs of solid objects lit from above. The solidity illusion (and hence, if I am right, the ‘knowledge’ of the predominant direction of light in the real world) seems to be genetically programmed in chicks – what we used to call ‘innate’ – rather than learned as (I’m guessing) it probably is in us. (Dawkins, 2004)

The hero is a giant

The heroic aspect of clannumen among the Baltic slaves got its plastic representation in the colossal dimensions of certain statues. Vyncke (1969) cites some gods identified as war god or warrior god, such as Gerovit, Pripegala, Sventovit, Tjarnaglofi and Rugevit. The latter is said to have stood 3 metres tall. But Sventovit took the crown with more than 7 metres in height.

The bringing down of the statue of Sventovit in Arkona in 1169, King Valdemar and Bishop Absalon, Laurits Tuxen.

A connection between the heroic quality of the god and the giant size in his representation is established here. Hero and giant are classified in the Semantic Colour Space under the same code white-on-blue or Yellow-6 (bright yellow). Keywords attached to this meaning within the same code include: angel, crown, excellence, holy, knight, star, supernatural, white horse. Because of his great size, the deity is granted supernatural powers that enable him to defeat the enemy.

Looking at the dimensional meaning of big, colossal can refer to powers and forces in the height dimension of semantic space. That which is higher than humans is perceived as dominating. It is then a compelling force operating from above (psychologically on top).

I. Michiels, red.

The lighting of up and down

One of the main differences between up and down in the world is the predominant direction of light. While not necessarily directly overhead, the sun’s rays generally come from above rather than below. This fact opens an important way in which we, and many other animals, can recognise solid three-dimensional objects. It works in reverse.

Public domain work of NASA

The photograph of moon craters is printed upside down. If your eye (well, to be more precise, your brain) works the same way as mine, you will see the craters as hills.

Public domain work of NASA

Turn the book upside down, so that the light appears to come from another direction, and the hills wil turn into craters that they truly are.

(Dawkins, 2004)

Up and down in the story of evolution

(About the primaeval worm, our ancestor of 590 million years ago.) Why is there a dorsal side and a ventral side? The argument is similar (as with the fore and aft asymmetry), and the one applies to starfish just as much as to worms. Gravity being what it is, there are lots of inevitable differences between up and down. Down is where the sea bottom is, down is where the friction is, up is where the sunlight comes from, up is the direction from which things fall on you. It is unlikely that dangers will threaten equally from below and above, and in any case those dangers are likely to be qualitatively different. So our primitive worm should have a specialised upper or ‘dorsal’ side and a specialised ‘ventral’ or lower side, rather than simply not caring which side faces the sea bottom and which side faces the sky. (Dawkins, 2004),

Verticality in product labels and shelves as a metaphorical cue to quality

This study investigates how subtle visual cues related to the design of a product’s package (i.e., label position) and the context (i.e., shelf orientation) influence consumer evaluation and behavioral intention. Extending research on metaphorical cues, Study 1 shows that consumers perceive a product as more powerful when the label on the package is placed in a higher (vs. lower) vertical position. Extending the focus from package design to the display context of packages, Study 2 shows that consumer perception of a product’s power is similarly enhanced when the package is placed on a shelf that is vertically (vs. horizontally) orientated. Across both studies effects of enhanced power perception extend to positively influence product quality inferences and behavioral intentions. These findings add to current knowledge on metaphorical cues in package design and the package’s presentation context and offer insights into the underlying mechanism.

(Machiels & Orth, 2017)