Effector specific response activation during word processing


Theories of embodied cognition suggest that sensorimotor processes are involved in language comprehension processes. Recent studies suggested that sentences referring to actions that involve a typical effector (e.g. “He kicks the ball”) can systematically activate motor cortex areas that are involved in performing such actions (Hauk, Johnsrude & Pulvermüller, 2004). In behavioral studies, there is mixed evidence regarding the effects of effector-specific words on corresponding actions. In the current study, we investigated the effect of four word groups on subsequent motor responses involving the hand or the foot. The four word groups were (a) action verbs (e.g., kick, grasp) (b) nouns containing the lexeme ‘hand’ or ‘foot’ (e.g., handball, football) (c) nouns referring to objects that are typically manipulated by hand or foot (e.g., cup, shoe), and (d) as control items, nouns that have a spatial association with the upper or lower space (e.g., eagle, root) and which are known to activate locational information in paradigms where no reading is required. We found strong effector-specific compatibility effects revealing a facilitation effect in all noun-groups. Surprisingly, this effect was not present for the action-verbs. Implications of these findings will be discussed.

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