People often speak of success (e.g., "advance") and failure (e.g., "setback") as if they were forward versus backward movements through space. Two experiments sought to examine whether grounded associations of this type influence motor behavior. In Experiment 1, participants categorized success versus failure words by moving a joystick forward or backward. Failure categorizations were faster when moving backward, whereas success categorizations were faster when moving forward. Experiment 2 removed the requirement to categorize stimuli and used a word rehearsal task instead. Even without Experiment 1's response procedures, a similar cross-over interaction was obtained (e.g., failure memorizations sped backward movements relative to forward ones). The findings are novel yet consistent with theories of embodied cognition and self-regulation.
Robinson, M. D., & Fetterman, A. K. (2015). The embodiment of success and failure as forward versus backward movements. PLoS ONE, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0117285