Grounded Procedures Theory: The Case of Cleansing as a Procedure of Separation

A parsimonious framework—Grounded Procedures Theory (GPT)—is offered for organizing findings from multiple research traditions (e.g., conceptual metaphor, sympathetic magic, embodied attitude, interpersonal touch). The core proposition of GPT is that sensorimotor procedures ground mental procedures with similar salient properties. As an illustrative case, physical cleansing is hypothesized to provide experiential grounding for the mental procedure of psychological separation. From this mechanistic account, novel predictions are derived and tested in the context of (1) threats to the self and (2) desires for cleansing products after immorality, moderated and mediated by subjective feelings of psychological separation. I will conclude by noting other propositions of GPT, their empirical implications, and open questions. The hope is that GPT serves as a productive level of analysis that integrates a variety of apparently irrational but psychologically tractable phenomena.