Both symbolic and embodied representations contribute to spatial language processing; Evidence from younger and older adults


Building on earlier neuropsychological work, we adopted a novel individual differences approach to examine the relationship between spatial language and a wide range of both verbal and nonverbal abilities. Three new measures were developed for the assessment of spatial language processing: spatial naming, spatial verbal memory, and verbal comprehension in spatial perspective taking. Results from a sample of young adults revealed significant correlations between performance on the spatial language tasks and performance on both the analogous (non-spatial) verbal measures as well as on the (non-verbal) visual-spatial measures. Visual-spatial abilities, however, were more predictive of spatial language processing than verbal abilities. Furthermore, results from a sample of older adults revealed impairments in visual-spatial tasks and on spatial verbal memory. The results support dual process accounts of meaning, and provide further evidence of the close connection between the language of space and non-linguistic visual-spatial cognition.

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