Cognitive Science 42 (S2):336-374 (2018)

Theories of embodied cognition assume that concepts are grounded in non-linguistic, sensorimotor experience. In support of this assumption, previous studies have shown that upwards response movements are faster than downwards movements after participants have been presented with words whose referents are typically located in the upper vertical space. This is taken as evidence that processing these words reactivates sensorimotor experiential traces. This congruency effect was also found for novel words, after participants learned these words as labels for novel objects that they encountered either in their upper or lower visual field. While this indicates that direct experience with a word's referent is sufficient to evoke said congruency effects, the present study investigates whether this direct experience is also a necessary condition. To this end, we conducted five experiments in which participants learned novel words from purely linguistic input: Novel words were presented in pairs with real up- or down-words ; they were presented in natural sentences where they replaced these real words ; they were presented as new labels for these real words ; and they were presented as labels for novel combined concepts based on these real words. In all five experiments, we did not find any congruency effects elicited by the novel words; however, participants were always able to make correct explicit judgements about the vertical dimension associated to the novel words. These results suggest that direct experience is necessary for reactivating experiential traces, but this reactivation is not a necessary condition for understanding the corresponding aspects of word meaning.
Keywords Distributional learning  Embodied cognition  Language comprehension  Language–space associations  Word learning
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Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1111/cogs.12549
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Minds, Brains, and Programs.John R. Searle - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):417-57.
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Metaphors We Live By.Max Black - 1980 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 40 (2):208-210.

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