Simulating Realism in Language Comprehension


Do perceptual simulations look more like high-resolution photographs or sketchy line drawings? In language comprehension, considerable evidence suggests that words and sentences trigger simulations, but it is unclear to what extent they resemble perceptual reality. We explored the possibility that different types of language may be associated with simulations at different levels of realism. In Experiment 1, participants judged whether an object depicted in a photograph or line drawing had been mentioned in a preceding sentence. Object recognition was faster for photographs after sentences containing adjectives than sentences containing spatial terms, and this difference was greater than for line drawings. In Experiment 2, recognition performance for color drawings was intermediate to that of photographs and line drawings, pointing to a continuum of realism from schematic to photorealistic. The results suggest that language, by eliciting simulations capturing different levels of realism, may induce different ways of conceptualizing the world.

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