The End’s in Plain Sight: Implicit Association of Visual and Conceptual Boundedness

AbstractWhat are the categorical distinctions shared between conceptual and visual representations? One distinction may be between bounded and unbounded entities. Previous research in sign language has shown that even non-signers associate signs with repetitive motion with atelic verbs, such as “run”, and signs with sudden motion with telic verbs, such as “arrive”. In our first study, we show this distinction holds even when the visual stimuli depicted bear no intrinsic linguistic reference: we used non-linguistic random dot motions. In our second study, we demonstrate this association occurs spontaneously, even when subjects are not making explicit semantic judgments about verbs. We use a cross-modal lexical decision task in which verbs and non-words appear superimposed on bounded or unbounded dot stimuli. We find congruency when the motion boundedness matches the conceptual boundedness of the verb. Together, these studies provide evidence for an automatic link between visual and conceptual boundedness in the mind.

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