Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Do Task-Irrelevant Direction-Associated Motion Verbs Affect Action Planning? Evidence from a Stroop Paradigm

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Do Task-Irrelevant Direction-Associated Motion Verbs Affect Action Planning? Evidence from a Stroop Paradigm

Article excerpt

Published online: 17 March 2012

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract Does simply seeing a word such as rise activate upward responses? The present study is concerned with bottom-up activation of motion-related experiential traces. Verbs referring to an upward or downward motion (e.g., rise/fall) were presented in one of four colors. Participants had to perform an upward or downward hand movement (Experiments 1 and 2a/2b) or a stationary up or down located keypress response (Experiment 3) according to font color. In all experiments, responding was faster if the word's immanent motion direction matched the response (e.g., upward/ up response in case of rise); however, this effect was strongest in the experiments requiring an actual upward or downward response movement (Experiments 1 and 2a/2b). These findings suggest bottom-up activation of motionrelated experiential traces, even if the task does not demand lexical access or focusing on a word's meaning.

Keywords Embodied cognition . Language comprehension . Lexical processing

Interacting with others and with the world is a basic function of life, typically accomplished via motor actions and language. Traditionally, the route from language to meaning is viewed as a building process that combines elements according to syntactic rules. The resulting meaning representations are assumed to reside within memory systems that are separate from the brain's modal systems (e.g., perception, action, introspection) that give rise to experience and knowledge in the first place. In contrast, some modern views of cognition do not make a strong distinction between language understanding and the modal systems in the brain. According to this framework, meaning representations resulting from language comprehension are of a nature similar to representations that result from direct experience of corresponding situations and events. Comprehension is assumed to be tantamount to mentally simulating the experience of the described situations and events (Zwaan & Madden, 2005).

The literature on sentence and discourse comprehension provides substantial evidence for an "experiential-simulations view" of language comprehension. First, neuropsychological studies indicate a considerable overlap between the mental subsystems used for representing linguistically described situations and the mental subsystems that are active during direct experience (e.g., Buccino et al., 2007). Second, behavioral studies demonstrate an interaction between the content of linguistic stimuli and nonlinguistic aspects of the experimental task. These studies suggest that text processing activates perceptual aspects of the described situations, as well as aspects of the involved actions. For example, Glenberg and Kaschak (2002) found that participants were faster to respond to a sentence such as Close the drawer when the required response movement matched the movement implied in the sentence (e.g., away from the body) than when it mismatched. This suggests that mechanisms recruited for action planning are also recruited when comprehending sentences describing actions (see also Taylor & Zwaan, 2008; Zwaan & Taylor, 2006). Such results fit with the idea that when comprehending a sentence, people mentally simulate the described situations and actions. One way to account for simulation effects observed with sentences is by means of an active top-down simulation process that is initiated subsequent to meaning composition (Kaup, Lüdtke, & Steiner, in press).

However, interactions between language and perception or action are also observed using individual words only. For instance, processing action words such as kick activates areas of the motor cortex similar to performing the corresponding actions (Hauk, Johnsrude, & Pulvermüller, 2004). Similarly, Meteyard, Zokaei, Bahrami, and Vigliocco (2008) showed that external activation of the motion responsive visual cortex via motion patterns results in interference with word processing, if the word denotes a motion direction that mismatches the activated visual motion (e. …

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