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OS_41. Language comprehension

Sunday, October 02nd,   2011 [17:00 - 18:00]


OS_41.1 - Taxonomic vs. thematic processing: A case of Serbian thematic preference!

Ilić, O. & Ković, V.

Department of Psychology. University of Novi Sad. Novi Sad, Serbia.

In this study we investigated thematic vs. taxonomic processing in Serbian language. Thematic relationship refers to a kind of associations which are related in time, space, function or cause, as opposed to taxonomic (or semantic) associations which share similar properties as a group. In an eye-tracking study participants were presented with an auditory cue (e.g. “monkey”), followed by presentation of three visual items. One of the three items was thematically related to the auditory label (e.g. “banana”), another one was taxonomically related (e.g. “giraffe”) and the third item was unrelated to the preceding word (e.g. “bench”). Out of the 24 triads used in the study, participants deliberately chose thematic relationship for the 23 of them. The thematic preference was also evident in the greater number of fixations, and percent of the time spent on the thematically related items. Given that our participants were first year undergraduate students, the level of education or developmental shifts cannot explain the here present preference. We argue that these results call upon a need for some of the thematic-taxonomic explanations to be revisited.

OS_41.2 - Effects of spatial distance on incremental comprehension of abstract sentences

Guerra, E. & Knoeferle, P.

Cognitive Interaction Technology Excellent Cluster, Universität Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany

Embodied language research provides evidence for the involvement of perceptual processes during language comprehension. Moreover, it has been proposed that abstract concepts (e.g., similarity) are linked to experiential concepts (e.g., distance). This hypothesis was recently experimentally studied and results suggest that the distance between objects/words influences how people judge their similarity. However, no studies have examined this hypothesis during incremental language comprehension. Complementarily, psycholinguistic research has shown that non-linguistic visual information can rapidly inform language comprehension when language refers to visual context. To examine both the comprehension of abstract sentences and visual context effects further we asked whether a) visually depicted distance can affect incremental semantic interpretation of abstract sentences, and whether b) a visual context without explicit links to linguistic content can modulate real-time language comprehension. Analyses of data (N=32) from two eye-tracking reading studies revealed first-pass effects of word (Experiment 1) and card (Experiment 2) distance on incremental semantic interpretation of abstract sentences, implicating more than just a referential mechanism. The rapid (first-pass) and extended time course of the effects suggests further that relating spatial distance to abstract content is instantaneous and part and parcel of ongoing semantic interpretation.

OS_41.3 - Catching objects through words

Scorolli, C. 1 , Daprati, E. 2 , Nico, D. 3 & Borghi, A. M. 1, 4

1 Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Italy
2 Department of Physiology, University of Rome, “Tor Vergata”, Italy
3 Department of Psychology, University of Rome, “La Sapienza”, Italy
4 4Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, CNR, Rome

According to “embodied” theories language is founded on action. This study aims to verify if words can be intended as kinds of actions. If this is the case, then word use should determine a bodily extension, similarly to tools. In the first experiment we presented participants with objects located in the peripersonal, extrapersonal and “border” space, i.e. reachable extending the arm and the back. Before and after a training session participants had to estimate the objects distances and to push a toy-car towards the objects’ location. During the “tool-yes” and “word-yes” training they used a rake or the right linguistic label to reach the far objects. In the “tool-no” and “word-no” conditions the tool and the word were not effective in accomplishing the task. Participants consciously perceived the reachable space as extended only after the “tool-yes” training; crucially analyses on the toy-car kinematics revealed a symmetric modulation also in the “word-yes” condition. In the second experiment we introduced a “switch-yes” training: participants pushed a button to reach the objects. The analogous shift on spatial representation produced by “tool”, “switch” as well as “linguistic-label” trainings argues in favour of a rearrangement of body schema determined by the social experience of language.

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