Neurological evidence linguistic processes precede perceptual simulation in conceptual processing

Max Louwerse and Sterling Hutchinson. Department of Psychology, Institute for Intelligent Systems, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA.



There is increasing evidence from response time experiments that language statistics and perceptual simulations both play a role in conceptual processing. In an EEG experiment we compared neural activity in cortical regions commonly associated with linguistic processing and visual perceptual processing to determine to what extent symbolic and embodied accounts of cognition applied. Participants were asked to determine the semantic relationship of word pairs (e.g., sky – ground) or to determine their iconic relationship (i.e., if the presentation of the pair matched their expected physical relationship). A linguistic bias was found toward the semantic judgment task and a perceptual bias was found toward the iconicity judgment task. More importantly, conceptual processing involved activation in brain regions associated with both linguistic and perceptual processes. When comparing the relative activation of linguistic cortical regions with perceptual cortical regions, the effect sizes for linguistic cortical regions were larger than those for the perceptual cortical regions early in a trial with the reverse being true later in a trial. These results map upon findings from other experimental literature and provide further evidence that processing of concept words relies both on language statistics and on perceptual simulations, whereby linguistic processes precede perceptual simulation processes.   Click here for the full report. 

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