[PS-3.65] Spatial representations of pitch height and object location during language comprehension

Wolter, S. , Kümmel, E. , Radloff, M. , Dudschig, C. & Kaup, B.

University of Tuebingen

The simulation account of language comprehension proposes that comprehenders mentally simulate the described events when they read or listen to sentences. Thus comprehension involves meaning representations that are similar in nature to those involved in direct experience. Studies conducted in the field of physical tone perception have shown that auditory pitch height is automatically associated with an upper (high pitch) or lower (low pitch) location in space. Similar compatibility effects were also found during the reading of sentences describing auditory events of different pitch heights (?the bear growls deeply? or ?the soprano-singer sings an Aria?). Here we directly compared sentences describing pitch height (?pitch sentences?) with sentences describing the location of an object in vertical space (?location sentences?, ?the sign hangs high/low?). Half of the sentences in both groups contained the words ?high? and ?low? (?explicit?), whereas in the other half pitch height and object location was only implied (?implicit?). Participants performed a sensibility judgment task on a vertically mounted response apparatus. We found a spatial compatibility effect, which was not modified by sentence group (pitch vs. location). However, compatibility only affected response latencies for explicit sentences, suggesting that the compatibility effects reflect word- as compared to sentence-based simulation processes.