Verbal labels promote representational alignment in the absence of communication

AbstractWhat affects whether one person represents an item in a similar way to another person? We examined the role of verbal labels in promoting representational alignment. Three groups of participants sorted novel shapes on perceived similarity. Prior to sorting, participants in two of the groups were pre-exposed to the shapes using a simple visual matching task and in one of these groups, shapes were accompanied by one of two novel category labels. Exposure with labels led people to represent the shapes in a more categorical way and to increased alignment between sorters, despite the two categories being visually distinct and participants in both pre-exposure conditions receiving identical visual experience of the shapes. Results hint that labels play a role in aligning people's mental representations, even in the absence of communication.

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