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Three symbol ungrounding problems: Abstract concepts and the future of embodied cognition

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Abstract

A great deal of research has focused on the question of whether or not concepts are embodied as a rule. Supporters of embodiment have pointed to studies that implicate affective and sensorimotor systems in cognitive tasks, while critics of embodiment have offered nonembodied explanations of these results and pointed to studies that implicate amodal systems. Abstract concepts have tended to be viewed as an important test case in this polemical debate. This essay argues that we need to move beyond a pretheoretical notion of abstraction. Against the background of current research and theory, abstract concepts do not pose a single, unified problem for embodied cognition but, instead, three distinct problems: the problem of generalization, the problem of flexibility, and the problem of disembodiment. Identifying these problems provides a conceptual framework for critically evaluating, and perhaps improving upon, recent theoretical proposals.

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... Choć panuje powszechna zgoda, że kwestia ugruntowania pojęć konkretnych jest dobrze wyjaśniona w ramach teorii dotyczącej metafory pojęciowej, pojawia się poważny problem w przypadku prób wyjaśnienia mechanizmu wyłaniania się pojęć abstrakcyjnych (ang. ungrounding problem, Dove, 2016). Jak twierdzę, dopiero przyjęcie stanowiska pośredniego pomiędzy teoriami ucieleśnienia a teoriami dystrybutywnymi pozwoli na sformułowanie satysfakcjonującego rozwiązania. ...
... Patterson, Nestor i Rogers (2007: 977) zauważyli, że jeśli pamięć semantyczna składa się jedynie z modalnych zawartości obiektów, jest wysoce wątpliwe, abyśmy kiedykolwiek mogli osiągnąć generalizacje wyższego poziomu, na których de facto w dużej części opiera się nasze przetwarzanie semantyczne. Warto wskazać, że teorie zakładające istnienie amodalnych reprezentacji wyjaśniają lepiej sposoby integracji informacji z wielu źródeł (Dove, 2009;2016;Machery, 2007). ...
... Innymi słowy, niektóre pojęcia indywidualne, zależnie od kontekstu, mogą w mniejszym lub większym stopniu angażować ucieleśnione reprezentacje. Tyczy się to zwłaszcza metafor, które używają konkretnych pojęć do wyrażenia abstrakcyjnych treści (Dove, 2016). ...
Article
Obecnie panuje powszechnie przekonanie, że założenia pierwszego kognitywizmu w językoznawstwie powinny być całkowicie zastąpione przez paradygmat ucieleśnienia. Jednak choć panuje powszechna zgoda, że kwestia ugruntowania pojęć konkretnych jest dobrze wyjaśniona w ramach teorii ucieleśnionego języka (Lakoff, Johnson), pojawia się poważny problem w przypadku prób wyjaśnienia mechanizmu wyłaniania się pojęć abstrakcyjnych (ungrounding problem, Dove 2016). W niniejszym artykule staram się wykazać, że prawdziwym problemem przed jakim stoją teorie ucieleśnienia, nie jest to, w jaki sposób myślenie abstrakcyjne jest ucieleśnione (Lakoff, Barsalou), lecz jak ucieleśnione poznanie może stać się abstrakcyjne. Jest to tak zwany „ungrounding problem”, który rozbija się na trzy pomniejsze kwestie: problem generalizacji, problem elastyczności oraz problem od-cieleśnienia. Jak twierdzę, dopiero przyjęcie stanowiska pośredniego pomiędzy teoriami ucieleśnienia a teoriami dystrybutywnymi pozwoli na sformułowanie satysfakcjonującego rozwiązania. Poniższy artykuł stanowi przybliżenie jednego z takich stanowisk pośrednich, jakim jest teoria ucieleśnionego i od-cieleśnionego poznania Guy’a Dove’a. Słowa kluczowe: językoznawstwo kognitywne, ucieleśniony język, ucieleśnione poznanie, Barsalou, Dove, od-cieleśnione poznanie
... Kod laganih zadataka ne dolazi do preklapanja, nego se to događa samo kod težih zadataka (Simmons i sur., 2007). Sva ta istraživanja ukazuju na činjenicu da perceptivna simulacija i utjelovljenje nisu jedini i sveobuhvatni mehanizam reprezentacije znanja i razumijevanja, već koegzistiraju i isprepliću se s drugim oblicima reprezentacije kao što su amodalitetni simboli (Dove, 2016;Louwerse, 2018). Kad će se perceptivna simulacija aktivirati i u kojoj će mjeri utjecati na razumijevanje, ovisi o uklopljenosti jezične komunikacije u situaciju u kojoj se nalaze govornici. ...
... Važan problem za utjelovljenu spoznaju odnosi se na reprezentaciju apstraktnih pojmova, odnosno pojmova koji nemaju direktno opipljiv referentni objekt (Borghi, 2020;Borghi i sur., 2017;Dove, 2016;Kiefer i Harpaintner, 2020). Primjer su takvih pojmova ljubav, prijateljstvo, pravo, jednakost ili uzročnost. ...
... Iz toga proizlazi da je ljudski um utjelovljen u istim onim procesima koji mu omogućuju uspješnu interakciju s okolinom, a efekti utjelovljenja manifestiraju se u jezičnome razumijevanju, pojmovnoj obradi i socijalnoj percepciji (Barsalou, 2020). Međutim, i dalje ostaje otvoreno pitanje je li i u kojoj je mjeri utjelovljenje relevantno za reprezentaciju znanja (Dove, 2016;Leshinskaya i Caramazza, 2016;, odnosno doprinosi li suštinski razumijevanju pojmova ili je riječ o usputnoj pojavi koja nastaje zbog razloga koji su nebitni za samo razumijevanje, kao što je širenje aktivacije u distribuiranoj neuronskoj mreži (Mahon, 2015;Mahon i Caramazza, 2008;Ostarek i sur., 2019). U tome je smislu korisno teorijsko razgraničenje između sekundarnoga, slaboga i jakog utjelovljenja (Meteyard i sur., 2012). ...
Article
Jedno je od središnjih pitanja kognitivne znanosti kako su pojmovi reprezentirani u ljudskome umu. Klasični je odgovor na to pitanje pretpostavka o odvojenome semantičkome modulu u kojemu je znanje pohranjeno putem apstraktnih simboličkih reprezentacija. Tako opisan semantički modul odvojen je od drugih sustava kao što su moduli za percepciju i motoriku. U posljednjih dvadesetak godina intenzivno se istražuje i razvija alternativni pristup poznat pod nazivom utjelovljena ili utemeljena spoznaja koji polazi od pretpostavke da je pojmovno znanje u stalnoj interakciji s percepcijom i motorikom, odnosno da je ukorijenjeno u njima putem mehanizma perceptivne simulacije. Cilj je ovoga rada dati pregled različitih teorijskih perspektiva na utjelovljenu spoznaju i evaluirati ih. Detaljno su prikazane teorija sustava perceptivnih simbola, model prožetoga iskustvenika i indeksna hipoteza te empirijski nalazi koji im idu ili ne idu u prilog. Zatim su prikazane i kritike utjelovljene spoznaje koje se odnose na razumijevanje apstraktnih pojmova, kao i odgovori na te kritike. Razmotrena je i ideja o stupnjevima ili kontinuumu utjelovljenja. Nakraju su dane smjernice za daljnja istraživanja koja bi trebala rasvijetliti točnu ulogu utjelovljenja u reprezentaciji znanja.
... The latter types of concepts, which do not refer to physical entities, are typically termed "abstract concepts". Abstract concepts are a challenge for all theories of conceptual representations, because their semantic content is highly variable and dependent on the context Dove, 2016;Hoffman, 2016). Consider the abstract concept "JUSTICE": for sensory, motor, introspective and emotional processes constitute the concept. ...
... In contrast to the well-investigated concrete concepts, the representation of abstract concepts, such as abstract ideas or scientific theories, imposes challenges for all classes of theories and opens a new frontier in the research on the nature of concepts for the following reasons (see also, Dove, 2016): Abstract concepts are more complex and ambiguous than concrete concepts because they apply to more and rather heterogeneous situations (Barsalou & Wiemer-Hastings, 2005;Hoffman, Ralph, & Rogers, 2013). Therefore, all models of conceptual representations have to deal with a high degree of conceptual flexibility. ...
... For that reason, their semantic content is less obvious compared to concrete concepts, which refer to a physical object or to a well-defined event. Abstract concepts are a particular challenge for grounded cognition theories because at the first glance, it is hard to imagine how concepts without a referent, which can be perceived or acted upon, could be grounded in the sensory and motor brain systems (Dove, 2009(Dove, , 2016. Hence, the mere existence of abstract concepts appears to falsify grounded cognition theories and seems to point to an amodal symbolic or verbal representation. ...
Article
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For a very long time, theorizing in the cognitive sciences was dominated by the assumption that abstract concepts, which lack a perceivable referent, can only be handled by amodal or verbal linguistic representations. In the last years, however, refined grounded cognition theories emphasizing the importance of emotional and introspective information for abstract concepts, in addition to verbal associations and sensorimotor information, have received increasing support. Here, we review theoretical accounts of the structure and neural basis of conceptual memory and evaluate them in light of recent empirical evidence with regard to the processing of concrete and abstract concepts. Based on this literature review, we argue that abstract concepts should not be treated as a homogenous conceptual category, whose meaning is established by one single specific type of representation. Instead, depending on the feature composition, there are different subgroups of abstract concepts, including those with strong relations to vision or action, which are represented in the visual and motor brain systems similar to concrete concepts. The reviewed findings with regard to concrete and abstract concepts can be accommodated best by hybrid theories of conceptual representation assuming an interaction between modality-specific, multimodal and amodal hub areas.
... Overcoming the modal/amodal dichotomy of concepts more detailed reviews I refer to the literature (e.g., Barsalou 2016;Dove 2016;Kemmerer 2019;Machery 2016;Meteyard et al. 2012). ...
... Strongly embodied (full simulation) views reduce conceptual processing to the level of sensorimotor (modal) representations (e.g., Gallese and Lakoff 2005;Glenberg and Gallese 2012). A consensus seems to emerge that extreme views have little empirical support and a compromise is needed (e.g., Borghi et al. 2017;Chatterjee 2010;Dove 2016;Meteyard et al. 2012;Reilly et al. 2016). To see this, let us briefly review three examples of empirical strategies that have been deployed to reveal the nature of conceptual format. ...
... However, while this happens in many instances, there are exceptions. As an example, it turns out that on some occasions processing of an action verb does not activate action areas in the brain (e.g., Barsalou 2016;Dove 2016;Kemmerer 2015). Also, Pecher (2018) recently showed that motor representations are not activated automatically; hence their activation is not always necessary for conceptual processing. ...
Article
Full-text available
The debate about the nature of the representational format of concepts seems to have reached an impasse. The debate faces two fundamental problems. Firstly, amodalists (i.e., those who argue that concepts are represented by amodal symbols) and modalists (i.e., those who see concepts as involving crucially representations including sensorimotor information) claim that the same empirical evidence is compatible with their views. Secondly, there is no shared understanding of what a modal or amodal format amounts to. Both camps recognize that the two formats play essential roles in higher cognition, leading to an increasing number of hybrid proposals. In this paper, I argue that the existence of those fundamental problems should make us suspicious about a modal/amodal dichotomy. Also, I suggest that hybrid approaches, as they currently stand, do not provide suitable solutions to the impasse. Instead, we should overcome the dichotomy and treat the modal/amodal distinction as a graded phenomenon. I illustrate this hypothesis with an example of a cognitive-computational model of concepts based on the Predictive Processing framework.
... The lesser degree of improvement for the cluster of Philosophical and Mental is not surprising. These abstract concepts are generally thought of as "highly disembodied" concepts (Dove, 2016), which are divorced from experiential (at Utsumi . ...
... Furthermore, the superiority of the indirect grounding model over two unimodal models (i.e., textual and visual models) and the dual coding model suggests that abstract concepts are both linguistic and grounded in perceptual experience. This result is consistent with the recent empirical findings (Louwerse and Jeuniaux, 2010;Malhi and Buchanan, 2018) and thus lends further support to the hybrid views of abstract concepts (Louwerse, 2011;Dove, 2016;Borghi et al., 2019). ...
Article
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How are abstract concepts grounded in perceptual experiences for shaping human conceptual knowledge? Recent studies on abstract concepts emphasizing the role of language have argued that abstract concepts are grounded indirectly in perceptual experiences and language (or words) functions as a bridge between abstract concepts and perceptual experiences. However, this “indirect grounding” view remains largely speculative and has hardly been supported directly by empirical evidence. In this paper, therefore, we test the indirect grounding view by means of multimodal distributional semantics, in which the meaning of a word (i.e., a concept) is represented as the combination of textual and visual vectors. The newly devised multimodal distributional semantic model incorporates the indirect grounding view by computing the visual vector of an abstract word through the visual vectors of concrete words semantically related to that abstract word. An evaluation experiment is conducted in which conceptual representation is predicted from multimodal vectors using a multilayer feed-forward neural network. The analysis of prediction performance demonstrates that the indirect grounding model achieves significantly better performance in predicting human conceptual representation of abstract words than other models that mimic competing views on abstract concepts, especially than the direct grounding model in which the visual vectors of abstract words are computed directly from the images of abstract concepts. This result lends some plausibility to the indirect grounding view as a cognitive mechanism of grounding abstract concepts.
... As a general account of abstract concepts, CMT has a number of significant problems. The relatively late emergence of linguistic metaphor in child development undermines its explanatory potential (Dove, 2009(Dove, , 2016. Some (e.g., Grady & Ascoli, 2017) have argued that we need to distinguish primary conceptual metaphors that underlie common, nearly universal metaphorical patterns (such as DIFFICULT IS HEAVY or IMPORTANCE IS SIZE) from more complex, culturally specific ones (such as TIME IS MONEY or THEORIES ARE BUILDINGS). ...
... Barsalou et al. (2018) suggest that concrete/abstract distinction should be replaced by two different distinctions that would apply to all types of concepts: the distinction between external and internal situational elements and the distinction between situational elements and situational integrations. This proposal fits with other attempts to disentangle a general problem of abstraction or generalization from the distinction between concrete and abstract concepts (Dove, 2016;Myachykov & Fischer, 2019). ...
Chapter
Some have recently suggested that abstract concepts do not constitute a substantial challenge to embodied cognition because they do not form a unified category. In this chapter, I argue that abstract concepts are indeed heterogeneous but as such pose several distinct theoretical challenges. After surveying the current evidence for, and responses to, these challenges, I conclude that a comprehensive embodied account that addresses the diversity of abstract concepts remains possible. Several desiderata for a future theory emerge from this critical review. A successful theory will need to embrace not only distributed multimodal representations but also recognize the importance of the emotions and the language system; to posit a hierarchical architecture that includes cross-modal convergence zones or hubs; and to provide a robust explanation for the semantic flexibility of concepts in general and abstract concepts in particular.
... In contrast to concrete concepts, the representation of abstract concepts, which lack a physical referent, are difficult to explain by grounded cognition theories at a first glance and seems to require an amodal or verbal representation. In fact, past theorizing was dominated for a long time by the view that abstract concepts require amodal ( Mahon and Caramazza, 2009 ) or verbal representations ( Paivio, 1986 ) based upon the statistical co-occurrence of words in language ( Connell, 2019 ;Dove, 2016 ;Hoffman, 2016 ;Hultén et al., 2021 ). ...
... Our findings specifically support a multiple representation view of abstract concepts Conca et al., 2021 ;Harpaintner et al., 2018 ;Kiefer and Harpaintner, 2020 ;Wilson-Mendenhall et al., 2013 ;Zdrazilova et al., 2018 ): Compared to verbal association concepts, mental state concepts seem to be based on rich representations established by action and mentalizing neural circuits. The meaning of abstract concepts is thus not exclusively established by verbal associations or linguistic representations as suggested previously ( Dove, 2016 ;Paivio, 1986 ). The present research also highlights the importance of investigating the neural processing of sets of abstract concepts with a defined semantic content. ...
Article
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Refined grounded cognition accounts propose that abstract concepts might be grounded in brain circuits involved in mentalizing. In the present event-related potential (ERP) study, we compared the time course of neural processing in response to semantically predefined abstract mental states and verbal association concepts during a lexical decision task. In addition to scalp ERPs, source estimates of underlying volume brain activity were determined to reveal spatio-temporal clusters of greater electrical brain activity to abstract mental state vs. verbal association concepts, and vice versa. Source estimates suggested early (onset 194 ms), but short-lived enhanced activity (offset 210 ms) to verbal association concepts in left occipital regions. Increased occipital activity might reflect retrieval of visual word form or access to visual conceptual features of associated words. Increased estimated source activity to mental state concepts was obtained in visuo-motor (superior parietal, pre- and postcentral areas) and mentalizing networks (lateral and medial prefrontal areas, insula, precuneus, temporo-parietal junction) with an onset of 212 ms, which extended to later time windows. The time course data indicated two processing phases: An initial conceptual access phase, in which linguistic and modal brain circuits rapidly process features depending on their relevance, and a later conceptual elaboration phase, in which elaborative processing within feature-specific networks further refines the concept. This study confirms the proposal that abstract concepts are based on representations in distinct neural circuits depending on their semantic feature content. The present research also highlights the importance of investigating sets of abstract concepts with a defined semantic content.
... The issue of how ACs are represented is becoming increasingly debated (reviews: Borghi et al., 2017;Dove, 2016research issues: Bolognesi & Steen, 2018Borghi et al., 2018b;Tomasino & Rumiati, 2013). To account for them, the recent multiple representation views have bridged the most insightful principles of embodied/ grounded (Barsalou, 2016;Glenberg & Gallese, 2012;Pulvermüller & Fadiga, 2010) and distributional views of meaning (Landauer & Dumais, 1997), highlighting the role of both sensorimotor and linguistic experience (Andrews et al., 2014). ...
... Multiple representation views propose that sensorimotor experience is crucial for all concepts, especially for CCs. ACs would instead evoke linguistic, social, and inner experiences (interoception, emotions) to a greater extent than CCs (Borghi et al., 2018a;Dove, 2016;Newcombe et al., 2012;Vigliocco et al., 2013). ...
Article
Compared to concrete concepts, like “book”, abstract concepts expressed by words like “justice” are more detached from sensorial experiences, even though they are also grounded in sensorial modalities. Abstract concepts lack a single object as referent and are characterized by higher variability both within and across participants. According to the Word as Social Tool (WAT) proposal, owing to their complexity, abstract concepts need to be processed with the help of inner language. Inner language can namely help participants to re-explain to themselves the meaning of the word, to keep information active in working memory, and to prepare themselves to ask information from more competent people. While previous studies have demonstrated that the mouth is involved during abstract concepts’ processing, both the functional role and the mechanisms underlying this involvement still need to be clarified. We report an experiment in which participants were required to evaluate whether 78 words were abstract or concrete by pressing two different pedals. During the judgment task, they were submitted, in different blocks, to a baseline, an articulatory suppression, and a manipulation condition. In the last two conditions, they had to repeat a syllable continually and to manipulate a softball with their dominant hand. Results showed that articulatory suppression slowed down the processing of abstract more than that of concrete words. Overall results confirm the WAT proposal’s hypothesis that abstract concepts processing involves the mouth motor system and specifically inner speech. We discuss the implications for current theories of conceptual representation.
... However, it seems more appropriate to regard representations as analogical and embodied. Not only does this avoid the problem of grounding, but it also fits into a research agenda whose basic assumptions have been corroborated by many studies [see 2,13]. It seems, however, that in light of the abstract nature of legal concepts, it is necessary to seek a middle path between the two extremes. ...
... It seems, however, that in light of the abstract nature of legal concepts, it is necessary to seek a middle path between the two extremes. Recent research is moving precisely in the direction of moderate embodiment and allows for the occurrence of amodal representations [13]. ...
Article
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Although much ink has been spilled on different aspects of legal concepts, the approach based on the developments of cognitive science is a still neglected area of study. The “mental” and cognitive aspect of these concepts, i.e., their features as mental constructs and cognitive tools, especially in the light of the developments of the cognitive sciences, is discussed quite rarely. The argument made by this paper is that legal concepts are best understood as mental representations. The piece explains what mental representations are and why this view matters. The explanation of legal concepts, understood as mental representations is one of (at least) three levels of explanation within legal philosophy, but—as will be argued—it is the most fundamental level. This paper analyzes the consequences of such understanding of concepts used in the field of legal philosophy. Special emphasis is put on the current debate on the analogical or amodal nature of concepts.
... Thus, the difference in meaning between words like squirrel vs. animal can be related to their level of semantic categorization (Miller and Fellbaum, 1991;Cruse, 1986) where words on lower, subordinate levels like squirrel (here, called 'specific' nouns) are characterized by relatively many defining semantic features, whereas words on higher, superordinate levels like animal (here called 'general' nouns) are associated with fewer defining features. This difference can also be seen as a difference in abstraction Dove, 2016), where words on higher lexical semantic levels are relatively more abstract than words on lower levels of the semantic hierarchy. Although the specific-general relation has a central role in models of lexical semantics and cognitive organisation (Rosch, Mervis, Gray, Johnson, and Boyes-Braem, 1976), it has rarely been the focus of neurolinguistic studies or studied in relation to the parameter of concreteness (Dove, 2016). ...
... This difference can also be seen as a difference in abstraction Dove, 2016), where words on higher lexical semantic levels are relatively more abstract than words on lower levels of the semantic hierarchy. Although the specific-general relation has a central role in models of lexical semantics and cognitive organisation (Rosch, Mervis, Gray, Johnson, and Boyes-Braem, 1976), it has rarely been the focus of neurolinguistic studies or studied in relation to the parameter of concreteness (Dove, 2016). In one early study (Kounios and Holcomb, 1992), relatively specific nouns (e.g. ...
Article
The N 400 has been seen to be larger for concrete than abstract words, and for pseudowords than real words. Using a word vector analysis to calculate semantic associates (SA), as well as ratings for emotional arousal (EA), and a measure of orthographic neighbourhood (ON), the present study investigated the relation between these factors and N 400 amplitudes during a lexical decision task using Swedish word stimuli. Four noun categories differing in concreteness: specific ( squirrel ), general ( animal ) emotional ( happiness ) and abstract ( tendency ) were compared with pseudowords ( danalod ). Results showed that N 400 amplitudes increased in the order emotional < abstract < general < specific < pseudoword . A regression analysis showed that the amplitude of the N 400 decreased the more semantic associates a word had and the higher the rating for emotional arousal it had. The N 400 also increased the more orthographic neighbours a word had. Results provide support for the hierarchical organisation of concrete words assumed in lexical semantics. They also demonstrate how affective information facilitates meaning processing.
... e.g., Noë and Thompson, 2004). Others still maintain the notion of abstract and thus amodal representation as a core ingredient of mental computations (Dove, 2009(Dove, , 2011(Dove, , 2016Binder, 2016) 2 . This, in turn, is challenged by those who claim that abstract (amodal) representations are dispensable; all it takes are embodied (modality-specific or perceptual) representations (cf. ...
... This suggests another, closely related question. 3. Are conceptual representations static and uniform or are they composed differently (or are different types of information drawn upon in a task-sensitive manner) across the variety of situations in which they are activated (Schyns et al., 1998;Vigliocco et al., 2004;Dove, 2016;Mahon and Hickok, 2016;Yee and Thompson-Schill, 2016)? An answer to this question depends on what we mean by "linguistic understanding. ...
Article
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Recent scholarship emphasizes the scaffolding role of language for cognition. Language, it is claimed, is a cognition-enhancing niche (Clark, 2006), a programming tool for cognition (Lupyan and Bergen, 2016), even neuroenhancement (Dove, 2019) and augments cognitive functions such as memory, categorization, cognitive control, and meta-cognitive abilities (“thinking about thinking”). Yet, the notion that language enhances or augments cognition, and in particular, cognitive control does not easily fit in with embodied approaches to language processing, or so we will argue. Accounts aiming to explain how language enhances various cognitive functions often employ a notion of abstract representation. Yet, embodied approaches to language processing have it that language processing crucially, according to some accounts even exclusively, involves embodied, modality-specific, i.e., non-abstract representations. In coming to understand a particular phrase or sentence, a prior experience has to be simulated or reenacted. The representation thus activated is embodied (modality-specific) as sensorimotor regions of the brain are thereby recruited. In this paper, we will first discuss the notion of representation, clarify what it takes for a representation to be embodied or abstract, and distinguish between conceptual and (other) linguistic representations. We will then put forward a characterization of cognitive control and examine its representational infrastructure. The remainder of the paper will be devoted to arguing that language augments cognitive control. To that end, we will draw on two lines of research, which investigate how language augments cognitive control: (i) research on the availability of linguistic labels and (ii) research on the active usage of a linguistic code, specifically, in inner speech. Eventually, we will argue that the cognition-enhancing capacity of language can be explained once we assume that it provides us with (a) abstract, non-embodied representations and with (b) abstract, sparse linguistic representations that may serve as easy-to-manipulate placeholders for fully embodied or otherwise more detailed representations.
... In some cases, context is thought to influence the extent to which sensorimotor simulations are activated during semantic processing. Situations that require deeper semantic processing might activate simulations to a greater extent than tasks that require only surface-level processing, for which more invariant linguistic representations are thought to suffice (Barsalou et al., 2008;Dove, 2016). Another view is that concepts can never be separated from their context (Yee and Thompson-Schill, 2016). ...
Article
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Many theories of semantic representation propose that simulations of sensorimotor experience contribute to language processing. This can be seen in the body-object interaction effect (BOI; how easily the human body can interact with a word’s referent). Words with high BOI ratings (e.g., ball ) are processed more quickly than words with low BOI ratings (e.g., cloud ) in various language tasks. This effect can be modulated by task demands. Previous research established that when asked to decide if a word is an object (entity condition), a BOI effect is observed, but when asked to decide if a word is an action (action condition), there is no BOI effect. It is unclear whether the null behavioral effect in the action condition reflects top-down modulation of task-relevant sensorimotor information or the absence of bottom-up activation of sensorimotor simulations. We investigated this question using EEG. In Experiment 1 we replicated the previous behavioral findings. In Experiment 2, 50 participants were assigned to either the entity or action conditions and responded to the same word stimuli. In both conditions we observed differences in ERP components related to the BOI effect. In the entity condition the P2 mean amplitude was significantly more positive for high compared to low BOI words. In the action condition the N400 peak latency was significantly later for high compared to low BOI words. Our findings suggest that BOI information is generated bottom-up regardless of task demands and modulated by top-down processes that recruit sensorimotor information relevant to the task decision.
... But it is more puzzling why a plurality of respondents map 'philosophy' to 'tea' or 'cello' to a 'cloudy day'. If some kind of alignment between the domains is involved [5][6][7][8], what exactly is being aligned and along what dimensions of meaning? 1 The second reason for examining how people perform cross-domain mappings is that it can help us think more clearly about the differences-and similarities-between how people represent concrete and abstract concepts [9][10][11][12][13][14][15]. Because concrete concepts generally have clearly identifiable perceptual properties (indeed that is largely what makes them 'concrete' in the first place, 16), it is tempting to assume that mental representations of concrete items are constituted by these properties [17,18], with similarity being a function of overlap [19][20][21]. ...
Article
We can easily evaluate similarities between concepts within semantic domains, e.g. doctor and nurse, or violin and piano. Here, we show that people are also able to evaluate similarities across domains, e.g. aligning doctors with pianos and nurses with violins. We argue that understanding how people do this is important for understanding conceptual organization and the ubiquity of metaphorical language. We asked people to answer questions of the form ‘If a nurse were an animal, they would be a(n) …’ (Experiments 1 and 2) and asked them to explain the basis for their response (Experiment 1). People converged to a surprising degree (e.g. 20% answered ‘cat’). In Experiment 3, we presented people with cross-domain mappings of the form ‘If a nurse were an animal, they would be a cat’ and asked them to indicate how good each mapping was. The results showed that the targets people chose and their goodness ratings of a given response were predicted by similarity along abstract semantic dimensions such as valence, speed and genderedness. Reliance on such dimensions was also the most common explanation for their responses. Altogether, we show that people can evaluate similarity between very different domains in predictable ways, suggesting either that seemingly concrete concepts are represented along relatively abstract dimensions (e.g. weak–strong) or that they can be readily projected onto these dimensions. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Concepts in interaction: social engagement and inner experiences’.
... These theories posit that comprehending a concept involves performing mental simulations that engage sensorimotor systems in the brain [24][25][26][27][28], such as activating legrelated neurons when processing the verbal concept 'kick' [29,30]. But, at least at first sight, sensorimotor simulation seems to be unable to explain how abstract concepts are comprehended [23,[31][32][33]. After all, how could abstract concepts such as 'virtue', 'idea' or 'democracy' involve the activation of sensorimotor systems when the content of these concepts has so little to do with anything that can be directly perceived or acted upon in a physical manner? ...
Article
How are abstract concepts such as ‘freedom' and ‘democracy' represented in the mind? One prominent proposal suggests that abstract concepts are grounded in emotion. Supporting this ‘affective embodiment' account, abstract concepts are rated to be more strongly positive or more strongly negative than concrete concepts. This paper demonstrates that this finding generalizes across languages by synthesizing rating data from Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Polish and Spanish. However, a deeper look at the same data suggests that the idea of emotional grounding only characterizes a small subset of abstract concepts. Moreover, when the concreteness/abstractness dimension is not operationalized using concreteness ratings, it is actually found that concrete concepts are rated as more emotional than abstract ones. Altogether, these results suggest limitations to the idea that emotion is an important factor in the grounding of abstract concepts. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Concepts in interaction: social engagement and inner experiences’.
... In particular, it is argued that abstract concepts can only be handled by amodal symbols (Carey 2000;Mahon and Caramazza 2009). Other theories specifically developed to explain representation of abstract concepts propose that their meaning is established by verbal representations (Paivio 1986) held in language regions of the brain (Wang et al. 2010), based upon the statistical co-occurrence of words in language (Dove 2016;Hoffman 2016;Connell 2019;Hultén et al. 2021). Hence, despite some differences, both theoretical stances converge on the assumption that abstract concepts must be represented outside the experiential brain systems involved in perception, action, and introspection because they lack a physical referent, which can be experienced by our senses. ...
Article
Scientific concepts typically transcendent our sensory experiences. Traditional approaches to science education therefore assume a shift towards amodal or verbal knowledge representations during academic training. Grounded cognition approaches, in contrast, predict a maintenance of grounding of the concepts in experiential brain networks or even an increase. To test these competing approaches, the present study investigated the semantic content of scientific psychological concepts and identified the corresponding neural circuits using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in undergraduate psychology students (beginners) and in graduated psychologists (advanced learners). During fMRI scanning, participants were presented with words denoting scientific psychological concepts within a lexical decision task (e.g. “conditioning”, “habituation”). The individual semantic property content of each concept was related to brain activity during abstract concept processing. In both beginners and advanced learners, visual and motor properties activated brain regions also involved in perception and action, while mental state properties increased activity in brain regions also recruited by emotional–social scene observation. Only in advanced learners, social constellation properties elicited brain activity overlapping with emotional–social scene observation. In line with grounded cognition approaches, the present results highlight the importance of experiential information for constituting the meaning of abstract scientific concepts during the course of academic training.
... www.nature.com/scientificreports/ which we distinguish from "abstraction" 14,15,48 ; see also 49 . With "abstraction, " we refer to the process that leads to the emergence of hierarchically ordered categories. ...
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words, terms not referring to here and now, are acquired slowly in infancy. They are difficult to acquire as they are more detached from sensory modalities than concrete words. Recent theories propose that, because of their complexity, other people are pivotal for abstract concepts’ acquisition and use. Eight children (4 girls) and their mothers were observed longitudinally and extensively from 12 to 24 months of age. Video recordings of mother-infant free play with toys were done every two weeks in a laboratory setting with families in the USA. Children progressively use a range of words referring to abstract concepts, with a major shift from 12 to 15 months and again from 22 to 24 months, but the qualitative data testify an incremental growth of abstract concepts. We identified a progression in the acquisition of words denoting abstract concepts in relation to the overall productive vocabulary, suggesting that having more abstract terms in one’s vocabulary promotes faster language acquisition.
... However, recent research underlined the complexity and variety of abstract concepts, sustaining that they are not "detached" from the sensory world. Otherwise, they express flexible relationships with a multitude of "real-time" experiences processing, which involves multiple neural systems, including the sensorimotor one (for recent reviews, see [2][3][4][5][6][7]. ...
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There is a debate about whether abstract semantics could be represented in a motor domain as concrete language. A contextual association with a motor schema (action or gesture) seems crucial to highlighting the motor system involvement. The present study with transcranial magnetic stimulation aimed to assess motor cortex excitability changes during abstract word comprehension after conditioning word reading to a gesture execution with congruent or incongruent meaning. Twelve healthy volunteers were engaged in a lexical-decision task responding to abstract words or meaningless verbal stimuli. Motor cortex (M1) excitability was measured at different after-stimulus intervals (100, 250, or 500 ms) before and after an associative-learning training where the execution of the gesture followed word processing. Results showed a significant post-training decrease in hand motor evoked potentials at an early processing stage (100 ms) in correspondence to words congruent with the gestures presented during the training. We hypothesized that traces of individual semantic memory, combined with training effects, induced M1 inhibition due to the redundancy of evoked motor representation. No modulation of cortical excitability was found for meaningless or incongruent words. We discuss data considering the possible implications in research to understand the neural basis of language development and language rehabilitation protocols.
... Therefore, tensions between (embodied) mental states and formal/mathematical structures of linguistic meaning remain. This is especially because there can be gradations of embodiment (Chatterjee, 2010;Dove, 2016) and formal/mathematical structures are least embodied in not being intrinsic properties of brain structures and may have to be indirectly grounded in sensory-motor systems in terms of spatial encoding (Amalric & Dehaene, 2016) via a hierarchy of relations of groundedness (invariant physical constraints), embodiment (prior sensory-motor experiences) and situatedness (intentional actions through top-down and bottom-up interactions) (see Fischer & Shaki, 2018). ...
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Natural language meaning has properties of both (embodied) cognitive representations and formal/mathematical structures. But it is not clear how they actually relate to one another. This article argues that how properties of cognitive representations and formal/mathematical structures of natural language meaning can be united remains one of the puzzles in cognitive science. That is primarily because formal/mathematical structures of natural language meaning are abstract, logical, and truth‐conditional properties, whereas cognitive/conceptual representations are embodied and grounded in sensory‐motor systems. After reviewing the current progress, this work offers, in outline, the general formulations that show how these two different kinds of representations for semantic structures can (potentially) be unified and also proposes three desiderata for testing, in brain dynamics, the mathematical equivalence between formal symbolic representations (and their transitions), and neuronal population codes (and their transitions).
... Because many abstract concepts have referents that we do not directly perceive or manipulate [7,29,30], it is not immediately clear how they can be grounded in action, emotion and perception systems [31,32]. In other words, embodied cognition faces a symbol ungrounding problem [33,34]. Language may help our conceptual system overcome this problem. ...
Chapter
This chapter argues that language is a neuroenhancement for grounded minds. The fact that much of our experience is mediated by language raises the question of whether language can itself serve as a source of grounding. The author proposes that its symbolic properties facilitate our capacity to encode abstract semantic content in several important ways: having labels for our concepts facilitates our ability to link together our diverse experiences, word-to-word associations help us draw inferences that go beyond our immediate experience, and knowledge linked to conversations and narratives enables us to tailor concepts to specific contexts and tasks. In sum, language helps our brains encode fundamentally disembodied content.
... The idea for this special issue was conceived a few years ago as a response to the rapidly growing interest in this topic (special issues: Bolognesi & Steen, 2018;Borghi et al., 2018; reviews;Borghi et al., 2017;Conca et al., 2021;Dove, 2016Dove, , 2020Löhr, 2019;Wang et al., 2018). Like many other activities, it was considerably slowed down by the Covid pandemic, but we are very grateful to all contributors for their hard work and patience, as well as to Bernhard Hommel for supporting this project throughout. ...
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This special issue, "Concrete constraints of abstract concepts", addresses the role of concrete determinants, both external and internal to the human body, in acquisition, processing and use of abstract concepts while at the same time presenting to the readers an overview of methods used to assess their representation.
... Besides the issue of overinclusion, no-report paradigms may also be underinclusive. That is, some concepts, particularly abstract ones that lack a perceivable referent, may not become conscious before an attempt is made to express them (Kiefer and Pulvermüller, 2012;Dove, 2016). Are we really aware of something abstract, like love or modesty, without verbalizing (Paivio, 1990) or imaging it? ...
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In the cognitive neuroscience of consciousness, participants have commonly been instructed to report their conscious content. This, it was claimed, risks confounding the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) with their preconditions, i.e., allocation of attention, and consequences, i.e., metacognitive reflection. Recently, the field has therefore been shifting towards no-report paradigms. No-report paradigms draw their validity from a direct comparison with no-report conditions. We analyze several examples of such comparisons and identify alternative interpretations of their results and/or methodological issues in all cases. These go beyond the previous criticism that just removing the report is insufficient, because it does not prevent metacognitive reflection. The conscious mind is fickle. Without having much to do, it will turn inward and switch, or timeshare, between the stimuli on display and daydreaming or mind-wandering. Thus, rather than the NCC, no-report paradigms might be addressing the neural correlates of conscious disengagement. This observation reaffirms the conclusion that no-report paradigms are no less problematic than report paradigms.
... However, despite that much consensus has been reached regarding the embodied nature of concrete language processing, it remains unsettled for the processing mechanism underlying abstract concepts (for reviews, see Borghi et al., 2017;Dove, 2016). Without concrete referents, it seems hard for abstract concepts to build a direct representation in the sensorimotor system. ...
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The study explores the humor-body association from the perspective of embodied cognition. According to the Conceptual Metaphor Theory, abstract concepts tend to be understood with concrete experiences through embodied mappings. Therefore, the current study attempts to investigate how humor, an understudied abstract concept, is perceived in the Chinese context by means of textual analysis and a behavioral experiment. Firstly, 6,500 entries of the corpus data related to laughter and humor in Chinese were used for the textual analysis. Extensive uses of embodied humor metaphors were found, which provided important linguistic evidence for the interaction between laughter, humor, and body. Secondly, a behavioral study was conducted based on some frequently-used embodied metaphorical expressions of humor (e.g., pěngfù dàxiào 捧腹大笑, meaning ‘to hold one’s sides laughing’) identified in the corpus. Specifically, the participants were instructed to either do embodied metaphor or non-metaphor actions as bodily primes (i.e., ‘holding one’s belly while bending forward and backward repeatedly’ vs. ‘turning one’s upper body from side to side with both hands on the back’) or perform no actions before completing the subsequent joke rating task and the mood rating task. Results showed that the participants who were primed with the embodied metaphor actions rated the jokes higher than those in the control groups who were primed with non-metaphor actions or had no primes. Also, there was no significant difference in the mood ratings across the groups. These findings suggest that embodied humor metaphors indeed affect humor experience and shape how humor is conceptualized. The current study supports not only the embodied view of humor understanding but also the conceptual metaphor account of abstract reasoning, which sheds new light on the theoretical development of the embodiment of abstract concepts.
... Increasingly, researchers are directing more attention to how both symbolic and sensorimotor representations capture the meaning of linguistic material. As a result, the last decade witnessed a surge of interest in theoretical accounts clustered under the label multiple representation theories (Borghi et al., 2017), such as language and situated simulation , representational pluralism (Dove, 2009(Dove, , 2016; words as social tools (Borghi et al., 2013(Borghi et al., , 2019; and symbol interdependency (Louwerse, 2008(Louwerse, , 2011. On a general level, these accounts hold that information processing can proceed successfully only when both experiential and linguistic factors are considered. ...
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In three studies, we advance the research on the association between abstract concepts and spatial dimensions by examining the spatial anchoring of political categories in three different paradigms (spatial placement, memory, and classification) and using non-linguistic stimuli (i.e., photos of politicians). The general hypothesis that politicians of a conservative or socialist party are grounded spatially was confirmed across the studies. In Study 1, photos of politicians were spontaneously placed to the left or right of an unanchored horizontal line depending on their socialist-conservative party affiliation. In Study 2, the political orientation of members of parliament systematically distorted the recall of the spatial positions in which they were originally presented. Finally, Study 3 revealed that classification was more accurate and faster when the politicians were presented in spatially congruent positions (e.g., socialist politician presented on the left side of the monitor) rather than incongruent ones (e.g., socialist on the right side). Additionally, we examined whether participants’ political orientation and awareness moderated these effects and showed that spatial anchoring seems independent of political preference but increases with political awareness.
... In alphabetic languages, the facilitating BOI effect in word recognition has been reported repeatedly in lexical decision tasks, phonological lexical decision tasks, and semantic categorization tasks performed by adults (Siakaluk et al., 2008a(Siakaluk et al., , 2008bTillotson et al., 2008;Wellsby et al., 2011). This facilitating effect illustrates that the meanings of concepts are generated, at least partly, from bodily interactions with corresponding referents (Barsalou, 2008;Dove, 2016). Specifically, bodily interactions with the objects of a concept (e.g., strawberry) are processed initially in modality-specific memory systems (e.g., visual, taste, and olfactory systems). ...
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A sample of 144 s- and 150 fourth-grade Chinese children was recruited to investigate the influence of body–object interactions (BOIs) on word recognition, i.e., how easily they could interact physically with each word’s referent. The moderation on this relationship of children’s screen time for entertainment purposes (i.e., the viewing or use of any device with a screen) was also examined. In a lexical decision task, the children were asked to judge whether each item was a real Chinese word. Each real word was assigned a BOI rating score. Model analysis showed that the BOI rating was a significant predictor of the children’s word recognition performances. The children recognized the words with higher BOI ratings at higher accuracy rates and higher response speeds more than the words with lower BOI ratings, showing a BOI effect. These results suggest an involvement of sensorimotor information in processing concepts. As well, the results showed a moderating effect of screen time on the BOI effect. With the increase of screen time, the BOI effect was reduced in terms of response speed. Moreover, the influence of the screen time on the BOI effect was larger in the second graders than in the fourth graders.
... So, it may be that concept empiricists can provide a relatively straightforward account of concrete concepts like CHAIR or DOG, but it is difficult to imagine how they could explain our ability to think about more abstract properties. This objection has been extremely influential and even convinced many concept empiricists to opt for a pluralist view (Dove, 2009(Dove, , 2016Meteyard, et al., 2012). For example, according to Kiefer and Pulvermüller (2012, p. 820): ...
Thesis
Cette thèse cumulative défend l’idée qu’une grande partie de la littérature interdisciplinaire traitant des concepts confond les concepts avec ce qui est utilisé pour appliquer les concepts. Plus précisément, cette thèse soutient que les questions relatives au contenu (ce sur quoi porte le concept, sa sémantique) ont été confondues avec les questions relatives à notre accès épistémique à ce contenu (ce que nous savons de ce contenu). Une fois cette distinction établie, il est possible de résoudre un certain nombre de problèmes qui ont contraint la littérature conceptuelle pendant des décennies. Premièrement, il devient alors possible de noter que les types de concepts auxquels les psychologues se sont intéressés pour expliquer le problème de l’application des concepts, comme dans la catégorisation, ne doivent pas nécessairement traiter des problèmes sémantiques de la compositionnalité et de la systématicité. Deuxièmement, il devient également possible de laisser place à la possibilité empirique que des concepts abstraits, c'est-à-dire des concepts qui ne i ne s'appliquent pas à des objets physiques concrets avec lesquels nous avons un contact sensoriel direct, puissent être mieux expliqués par une approche de la cognition située ou empiriste, c’est-à- dire par des mouvements corporels, des représentations sensorimotrices, ou des représentations de situations et d'états introspectifs.
... This is in line with ideas of authors who have a critical attitude towards embodied cognition and point to alternative explanations (e.g. Mahon, 2015;Dove, 2016). ...
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Insight into psychological mechanisms offers service organisations the opportunity to increase their hospitality performance. The present research shows that physical warmth positively contributes to people’s experience of hospitality. In a field experiment among 127 visitors to a theatre, the effects of cold versus hot drinks and furniture on the experience of hospitality were examined using the Experience of Hospitality Scale (EH scale), measuring the three experiential factors of hospitality: inviting, care and comfort. In line with embodiment theory, hot drinks positively influenced the experience of the care factor of hospitality in the theatre foyer by triggering the abstract metaphor of mental warmth. However, warm furniture showed no effect, which supports the assumption that the effects of short- and long-term exposure to physical warmth are different. This study is the first to show a relationship between physically warm objects and the experience of hospitality in a service-oriented environment.
... Even if amodal theories could explain the findings for concrete words with literal spatial associations such as attic or basement, they fail to explain why retrieval of words with metaphorical spatial meanings such as hope or chaos was modulated according to their spatial arrangement. The fact that abstract words triggered the simulation of metaphorical locations with consequences in memory in the present study REMEMBERING SPATIAL WORDS 30 sheds further light on the grounding of abstract words, which is a long-standing challenge for groundedembodied cognition (Dove, 2016). Along with that, future studies in non-Western languages with a rightto-left reading direction are particularly important to generalise the results. ...
Article
Previous evidence shows that words with implicit spatial meaning or metaphorical spatial associations are perceptually simulated and can guide attention to associated locations (e.g., bird – upward location). In turn, simulated representations interfere with visual perception at an associated location. The present study investigates the effect of spatial associations on short-term verbal recognition memory to disambiguate between modal and amodal accounts of spatial interference effects across two experiments. Participants in both experiments encoded words presented in congruent and incongruent locations. Congruent and incongruent locations were based on an independent norming task. In Experiment 1, an auditorily presented word probed participants’ memory as they were visually cued to either the original location of the probe word or a diagonal location at retrieval. In Experiment 2, there was no cue at retrieval but a neutral encoding condition in which words normed to central locations were shown. Results show that spatial associations affected memory performance although spatial information was neither relevant nor necessary for successful retrieval: Words in Experiment 1 were retrieved more accurately when there was a visual cue in the congruent location at retrieval but only if they were encoded in a non-canonical position. A visual cue in the congruent location slowed down memory performance when retrieving highly imageable words. With no cue at retrieval (Experiment 2), participants were better at remembering spatially congruent words as opposed to neutral words. Results provide evidence in support of sensorimotor simulation in verbal memory and a perceptual competition account of spatial interference effect.
... Do symbols need to be grounded to their physical referents to have meanings? Thirty years ago, Harnad (1990) posed this question motivating empirical studies and theoretical debates across many subfields of cognitive science (Taddeo and Floridi, 2005;Steels, 2008;De Vega et al., 2008;Dove, 2016). The issues are still theoretically (Socher et al., 2013;Wang et al., 2019) and practically relevant, especially within the field of education (Alibali and Nathan, 2012;Pouw et al., 2014;Stolz, 2015). ...
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Very few questions have cast such an enduring effect in cognitive science as the question of “symbol-grounding”: Do human-invented symbol systems have to be grounded to physical objects to gain meanings? This question has strongly influenced research and practice in education involving the use of physical models and manipulatives. However, the evidence on the effectiveness of physical models is mixed. We suggest that rethinking physical models in terms of analogies, rather than groundings, offers useful insights. Three experiments with 4- to 6-year-old children showed that they can learn about how written multi-digit numbers are named and how they are used to represent relative magnitudes based on exposure to either a few pairs of written multi-digit numbers and their corresponding names, or exposure to multi-digit number names and their corresponding physical models made up by simple shapes (e.g., big-medium-small discs); but they failed to learn with traditional mathematical manipulatives (i.e., base-10 blocks, abacus) that provide a more complete grounding of the base-10 principles. These findings have implications for place value instruction in schools and for the determination of principles to guide the use of physical models.
... Nadalje, neuroznanstvena istraživanja korištenjem tehnika oslikavanja mozga pokazala su djelomično preklapanje neuronske aktivnosti koja se pojavljuje kod pojmovne obrade i kod percepcije i motorike (Martin, 2016). Međutim, ostalo je neriješeno pitanje kako utemeljena kognicija može reprezentirati apstraktne pojmove kao što su pravda, jedinstvo ili znanje koji označavaju pojave i entitete s kojima nemamo direktna perceptivna ili motorička iskustva koja mogu poslužiti za njihovo utemeljenje (Borghi, 2020;Borghi i sur., 2017;Dove, 2016;Ostarek i Huettig, 2019). Predložena su dva rješenja toga problema: jedno se zasniva na teoriji o pojmovnim metaforama (Lakoff i Johnson, 1980, 1999, a drugo na afektivnome utemeljenju (Kousta i sur., 2011;Vigliocco i sur., 2014). ...
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Razumijevanje apstraktnih pojmova predstavlja važan izazov za teorijski okvir utemeljene kognicije. Jedna je mogućnost da se apstraktni pojmovi utemeljuju u afektivnim stanjima. U ovome smo radu ispitali hipotezu povezuje li se apstraktni matematički pojam parnosti broja (par – nepar) s pozitivnim i negativnim afektivnim tonom koji je indirektno naznačen predznakom plus i minus. U prvome su eksperimentu ispitanici odgovarali na pitanje je li prezentirani broj paran ili neparan. Kao podražaji prezentirani su cijeli brojevi u rasponu od -9 do 9 bez -5, 0 i 5. Rezultati su pokazali dvosmjernu interakciju između predznaka i parnosti jer su ispitanici bili efikasniji u obradi pozitivnih nego u obradi negativnih parnih brojeva. Također, bili su efikasniji u obradi negativnih nego u obradi pozitivnih neparnih brojeva. U drugome su eksperimentu ispitanici odgovarali na pitanje je li prezentirani broj numerički veći ili manji od 5, pri čemu su trebali ignorirati predznak. Prezentirani su isti podražaji kao i u prvome eksperimentu. Dobivena je složenija trosmjerna interakcija u kojoj su ispitanici bili efikasniji u obradi pozitivnih nego u obradi negativnih parnih brojeva, kao i u prvome eksperimentu, ali taj se efekt pojavio samo za brojeve veće od 5. Rezultati su interpretirani u okviru teorije o korespondenciji polariteta i teorije centralnoga afektivnog utemeljenja.
... If it seems that the access to sensorimotor representation is context-dependent, this issue is also controversial. While Yee and Thompson-Schill (2016) consider that all semantic processing is driven by the context, Dove (2016) argues that this is not always the case. ...
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According to the embodied approach of language, concepts are grounded in sensorimotor mental states, and when we process language, the brain simulates some of the perceptions and actions that are involved when interacting with real objects. Moreover, several studies have highlighted that cognitive performances are dependent on the overlap between the motor action simulated and the motor action required by the task. On the other hand, in the field of memory, the role of action is under debate. The aim of this work was to show that performing an action at the stage of retrieval influences memory performance in a recognition task (experiment 1) and a cued recall task (experiment 2), even if the participants were never instructed to consider the implied action. The results highlighted an action-based memory effect at the retrieval stage. These findings contribute to the debate about the implication of motor system in action verb processing and its role for memory.
... However, critics of the embodied meaning approach raise doubts about the significance of the above behavioral and neural evidence (Chatterjee, 2010;Dove, 2016;Mahon, 2015;Mahon & Caramazza, 2008;Patterson, Nestor, & Rogers, 2007). According to these authors, it is not clear whether grounded representations are functional or even necessary aspects of meaning. ...
Article
The embodied meaning approach posits that understanding action-related language recruits motor processes in the brain. However, the functional impact of these motor processes on cognition has been questioned. The present study aims to provide new electrophysiological (EEG) evidence concerning the role of motor processes in the comprehension and memory of action language. Participants read lists of sentences including manual-action or attentional verbs, while keeping their hands either in front of them or crossing them behind their back. Results showed that posture impacted selectively the processing of manual action sentence, and not of attentional sentences, in three different ways: 1) EEG fronto-central beta rhythms, a signature of motor processes, were desynchronized while reading action sentences in the hands-in-front posture compared to the hands-behind posture. The estimated source was the posterior cingulate cortex, involved in proprioceptive regulation. 2) Recall of nouns associated with manual sentences decreased when learning occurred in the hands-behind posture. 3) ERPs analysis revealed that the initial posture at learning modulates neural processes during subsequent recall of manual sentences in the left superior frontal gyrus, which is related to motor processes. These results provide decisive evidence for the functional involvement of embodied simulations in the encoding and retrieval of action-related language.
... This aim was driven by the fact that recent proposals have indeed suggested that multiple systems-not only sensorimotor onesare engaged in shaping conceptual representation. According to multiple representation views, abstract concepts are grounded in situational and perceptual information just like concrete concepts (Gallese & Cuccio, 2018;Pulvermüller, 2018), but they also involve to a large extent linguistic, inner (interoceptive and emotions) and social experience (Borghi et al., 2018a;Dove, 2016Dove, , 2019Vigliocco et al., 2013;Newcombe, Campbell, Siakaluk, & Pexman, 2012;Connell, Lynott, & Banks, 2018). In this vein, we will focus on Words As social Tools proposal (WAT, Borghi & Binkofski, 2014;Borghi et al., 2018aBorghi et al., , 2018bBorghi et al., , 2019, according to which words can be considered as social tools useful to operate in the external environment, and as inner tools, useful to support our categorization and thought process. ...
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Using abstract concepts is a hallmark of human cognition. While multiple kinds of abstract concepts exist, they so far have been conceived as a unitary kind in opposition to concrete ones. Here, we focus on Institutional concepts, like justice or norm, investigating their fine-grained differences with respect to other kinds of abstract and concrete concepts, and exploring whether their representation varies according to individual proficiency. Specifically, we asked experts and non-experts in the legal field to evaluate four kinds of concepts (i.e., institutional, theoretical, food, artefact) on 16 dimensions: abstractness-concreteness; imageability; contextual availability; familiarity; age of acquisition; modality of acquisition; social valence; social metacognition; arousal; valence; interoception; metacognition; perceptual modality strength; body-object interaction; mouth and hand involvement. Results showed that Institutional concepts rely more than other categories on linguistic/social and inner experiences and are primarily characterized by positive valence. In addition, a more subtle characterization of the institutional domain emerged: Pure-institutional concepts (e.g., parliament) were perceived as more similar to technical tools, while Meta-institutional concepts (e.g., validity) were characterized mainly by abstract components. Importantly, for what concerns individual proficiency, we found that the level of expertise affects conceptual representation. Only law-experts associated Institutional concepts with exteroceptive and emotional experiences, showing also a more grounded and situated representation of the two types of institutional concepts. Overall, our finding highlights the richness and flexibility of abstract concepts and suggests that they differ in the degree of embodiment and grounding. Implications of the results for current theories of conceptual representation and social institutions are discussed.
... This focus raises the question of whether a modal theory equally applies to abstract concepts-such as 'democracy', 'electron', or 'truth'-all of which are unobservable, intangible, or purely formal, and therefore are not readily imageable. 54 The status of 'abstract' concepts will be of particular interest when we turn our attention to theological concepts. ...
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The principle of divine accommodation posits that revelation is accommodated to human cognitive capacities. It is regularly cited throughout the history of theology as an exegetical tool, as a doctrinal rationale, or as a condition for theological knowledge in general. This article proposes that divine accommodation invites an engagement with cognitive science, since findings in cognitive science illuminate the human cognitive capacities to which theological knowledge is accommodated. This article aims to demonstrate the fruitfulness of such an engagement by considering how theological concepts might be accommodated to accounts of human conceptualisation emerging from cognitive science. In particular, a case study considers the ‘conceptualisation hypothesis’ from ‘embodied cognition’, an emerging paradigm in cognitive science. This hypothesis suggests that human concepts are ‘grounded’ in sensorimotor states. If this scientifically‐motivated theory applies to all human concepts, it poses a potential theological dilemma: namely, if God‐concepts are grounded in sensorimotor states they prima facie risk being idolatrous, whereas if they are not so grounded, they may be un‐conceptualisable by humans. I suggest that one way to address this dilemma is to draw upon Athanasius’ insight that the incarnation plays a crucial role in accommodating human understanding. By examining the incarnation as an accommodation to human capacities uncovered by cognitive scientists, we gain a more comprehensive account of the epistemological reason for the incarnation. This account offers new lines of thinking about debates on the doctrine of the incarnation, such as the possibility of multiple incarnations.
... The model provides a way to specify the role played by affects in the embodiment of cognitive processes. Embodied cognition has highlighted this role (e.g., Barsalou 2011;Dove 2016), yet without providing a detailed depiction of the way it works. A relevant area where this specification can prove to be fruitful is the way of addressing the nature of emotional concepts. ...
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The paper outlines a model of the basic cognitive process of the constitution of experience - the Affective Pertinentization Model (APER). The constitution of experience is intended as the basic cognitive process underpinning the meaning-maker’s experience of mental representations as self-contained, stable, substantive entities standing for something in the external reality. Framed within the general family of theories highlighting the embodiment of cognition, the APER model claims that affects are the basic mechanism at the basis of the constitution of human experience. The first part of the paper outlines the APER model; the second part reviews some preliminary evidence supporting it.
... All of this leads to an important caveat: although language makes significant contributions to our capacity for abstract concepts, it is not the sole source of generalization or abstraction (Borghi & Binkofski, 2014;Dove, 2016). Even concrete concepts rely on a capacity to abstract from category exemplars. ...
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The role played by language in our cognitive lives is a topic at the centre of contemporary debates in cognitive (neuro)science. In this paper we illustrate and compare two theories that offer embodied explanations of this role: the WAT (words as social tools) and the LENS (language is an embodied neuroenhancement and scaffold) theories. WAT and LENS differ from other current proposals, because they connect the impact of the neurologically realized language system on our cognition to the ways in which language shapes our interaction with the physical and social environment. Examining these theories together, their tenets and supporting evidence, sharpens our understanding of each, but also contributes to a better understanding of the contribution that language might make to the acquisition, representation and use of abstract concepts. Here we focus on how language provides a source of inner grounding, especially metacognition and inner speech, and supports the flexibility of our thought. Overall, the paper outlines a promising research program focused on the importance of language to abstract concepts within the context of a flexible, multimodal, and multilevel conception of embodied cognition.
... More recently, however, many researchers are of the belief that the event representations that form the situation model are actually perceptual in nature (Barsalou, 1999(Barsalou, , 2008Zwaan, 2016). Indeed, much research has been published that provides support for sensorimotor activation during language comprehension (see Barsalou, 2008;Dove, 2016;Kiefer & Pulvermüller, 2012, for extensive reviews on this topic). Specifically, many studies using the sentence-picture verification paradigm have found evidence that various object features are included in mental simulations, such as object shape (Zwaan, Stanfield, & Yaxley, 2002), orientation (Stanfield & Zwaan, 2001), motion (Zwaan, Madden, Yaxley, & Aveyard, 2004), visibility (Yaxley & Zwaan, 2006), and color (Hoeben Mannaert, Dijkstra, & Zwaan, 2017;Zwaan & Pecher, 2012), but these have not examined the activation of these object features over the course of more than one sentence. ...
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... This leads to an important caveat: although language makes significant contributions to our capacity for abstract concepts, it is not the sole source of generalization or abstraction (Borghi & Binkofski, 2014;Dove, 2016). Even concrete concepts rely on a capacity to abstract from category 15 exemplars. ...
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The role played by language in our cognitive lives is a topic at the centre of contemporary debates in cognitive (neuro)science. In this paper we illustrate and compare two theories that offer embodied explanations of this role: the WAT (Words As social Tools) and the LENS (Language is an Embodied Neuroenhancement and Scaffold) theories. WAT and LENS differ from other current proposals because they connect the impact of the neurologically realized language system on our cognition to the ways in which language shapes our interaction with the physical and social environment. Examining these theories together, their tenets and supporting evidence, sharpens our understanding of each, but also contributes to a better understanding of the contribution that language might make to the acquisition, representation and use of abstract concepts. Here we focus on how language provides a source of inner grounding, especially metacognition and inner speech, and supports the flexibility of our thought. Overall, the paper outlines a promising research program focused on the importance of language to abstract concepts within the context of a flexible, multimodal, and multilevel conception of embodied cognition.
... A clear division of words into an abstract or a concrete category, however, remains quite subjective due to the fact that, firstly, each person has a different language experience and background, and secondly, in the vocabulary of any language, there are many polysemic words that often have meanings related to different categories on the concreteness scale. (Danguecan & Buchanan, 2016;Dove, 2016) Even though the binary nature of such a division may seem an obstacle to the accuracy of the classification, in our work we adhere to such a categorization. We believe that if previous studies were able to prove the difference in the perception of abstract and concrete words by the human brain, the line between abstractness and concreteness exists in the lexicon and can be reflected in specific inherent features in the vocabulary. ...
... In other words, concepts differ in terms of their suitability to be captured by images of exemplars of them (Dove 2009, p. 426). This points to some kind of hybrid approach (Dove 2016(Dove , p. 1112Wajnerman Paz 2018, p. 5249), where CNNs and GANs might be example models of grounded representations. ...
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... Indeed, combination between CFDs can give rise to a more complex CFD, defined for instance as the structural combination of several elements (think, e.g., of a triangle, as composed of three segments correctly arranged). The combination might also refer to a taxonomic level (generalization; Dove, 2016), such as, for instance, when the combination of CFDs for various known cat breeds or types would give rise to a generic cat CFD. ...
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Chapter
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Abstract Three patients with semantic dementia, involving progressive deterioration of semantic memory, performed immediate serial recall of short sequences of familiar words. On the basis of their performance in other tasks of word comprehension and production, the stimuli were selected individually for each patient as either known or unknown words. All patients showed a marked advantage in recall of known as compared to familiar but now unknown words. Errors consisted primarily of incorrect combinations of correct phoneme sequences in the stimulus string, with a large number of errors preserving onsethime syllable structure (e.g., mint, rug reproduced as "rint, mug"). Discussion focuses on the implication of these errors for the structure of phonological representations, and in particular on a hypothesis that meaning plays a crucial role in binding the elements of phonological word forms.
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We present an account of semantic representation that focuses on distinct types of information from which word meanings can be learned. In particu-lar, we argue that there are at least two major types of information from which we learn word meanings. The first is what we call experiential infor-mation. This is data derived both from our sensory-motor interactions with the outside world, as well as from our experience of own inner states, par-ticularly our emotions. The second type of information is language-based. In particular, it is derived from the general linguistic context in which words appear. The paper spells out this proposal, summarizes research supporting this view and presents new predictions emerging from this framework.
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According to grounded cognition, words whose semantics contain sensory-motor features activate sensory-motor simulations, which, in turn, interact with spatial responses to produce grounded congruency effects (e.g., processing the spatial feature of up for sky should be faster for up vs. down responses). Growing evidence shows these congruency effects do not always occur, suggesting instead that the grounded features in a word's meaning do not become active automatically across contexts. Researchers sometimes use this as evidence that concepts are not grounded, further concluding that grounded information is peripheral to the amodal cores of concepts. We first review broad evidence that words do not have conceptual cores, and that even the most salient features in a word's meaning are not activated automatically. Then, in three experiments, we provide further evidence that grounded congruency effects rely dynamically on context, with the central grounded features in a concept becoming active only when the current context makes them salient. Even when grounded features are central to a word's meaning, their activation depends on task conditions.
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It has been proposed that much of conceptual knowledge is acquired through situated conceptualization, such that both external (e.g., agents, objects, events) and internal (e.g., emotions, introspections) environments are considered important (Barsalou, 2003). To evaluate this proposal, we characterized two dimensions by which situated conceptualization may be measured and which should have different relevance for abstract and concrete concepts; namely, emotional experience (i.e., the ease with which words evoke emotional experience; Newcombe, Campbell, Siakaluk, & Pexman, 2012) and context availability (i.e., the ease with which words evoke contexts in which their referents may appear; Schwanenflugel & Shoben, 1983). We examined the effects of these two dimensions on abstract and concrete word processing in verbal semantic categorization (VSCT) and naming tasks. In the VSCT, emotional experience facilitated processing of abstract words but inhibited processing of concrete words, whereas context availability facilitated processing of both types of words. In the naming task in which abstract words and concrete words were not blocked by emotional experience, context availability facilitated responding to only the abstract words. In the naming task in which abstract words and concrete words were blocked by emotional experience, emotional experience facilitated responding to only the abstract words, whereas context availability facilitated responding to only the concrete words. These results were observed even with several lexical (e.g., frequency, age of acquisition) and semantic (e.g., concreteness, arousal, valence) variables included in the analyses. As such, the present research suggests that emotional experience and context availability tap into different aspects of situated conceptualization and make unique contributions to the representation and processing of abstract and concrete concepts.
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Recently, there has been a great deal of interest in the idea that natural language enhances and extends our cognitive capabilities. Supporters of embodied cognition have been particularly interested in the way in which language may provide a solution to the problem of abstract concepts. Toward this end, some have emphasized the way in which language may act as form of cognitive scaffolding and others have emphasized the potential importance of language-based distributional information. This essay defends a version of the cognitive enhancement thesis that integrates and builds on both of these proposals. I argue that the embodied representations associated with language processing serve as a supplementary medium for conceptual processing. The acquisition of a natural language provides a means of extending our cognitive reach by giving us access to an internalized combinatorial symbol system that augments and supports the context-sensitive embodied representational systems that exist independently of language.
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Over the past decade, theories of embodied cognition have become increasingly influential with research demonstrating that sensorimotor experiences are involved in cognitive processing; however, this embodied research has primarily focused on adult cognition. The notion that sensorimotor experience is important for acquiring conceptual knowledge is not a novel concept for developmental researchers, and yet theories of embodied cognition often do not fully integrate developmental findings. We propose that in order for an embodied cognition perspective to be refined and advanced as a lifelong theory of cognition, it is important to consider what can be learned from research with children. In this paper, we focus on development of concepts and language processing, and examine the importance of children's embodied experiences for these aspects of cognition in particular. Following this review, we outline what we see as important developmental issues that need to be addressed in order to determine the extent to which language and conceptual knowledge are embodied and to refine theories of embodied cognition.
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The empirical study of language has historically relied heavily upon concrete word stimuli. By definition, concrete words evoke salient perceptual associations that fit well within feature-based, sensorimotor models of word meaning. In contrast, many theorists argue that abstract words are "disembodied" in that their meaning is mediated through language. We investigated word meaning as distributed in multidimensional space using hierarchical cluster analysis. Participants (N = 365) rated target words (n = 400 English nouns) across 12 cognitive dimensions (e.g., polarity, ease of teaching, emotional valence). Factor reduction revealed three latent factors, corresponding roughly to perceptual salience, affective association, and magnitude. We plotted the original 400 words for the three latent factors. Abstract and concrete words showed overlap in their topography but also differentiated themselves in semantic space. This topographic approach to word meaning offers a unique perspective to word concreteness.
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Memory cells, the ultimate neurobiological substrates of working memory, remain active for several seconds and are most commonly found in prefrontal cortex and higher multisensory areas. However, if correlated activity in “embodied” sensorimotor systems underlies the formation of memory traces, why should memory cells emerge in areas distant from their antecedent activations in sensorimotor areas, thus leading to “disembodiment” (movement away from sensorimotor systems) of memory mechanisms? We modelled the formation of memory circuits in six-area neurocomputational architectures, implementing motor and sensory primary, secondary and higher association areas in frontotemporal cortices along with known between-area neuroanatomical connections. Sensorimotor learning driven by Hebbian neuroplasticity led to formation of cell assemblies distributed across the different areas of the network. These action-perception circuits (APCs) ignited fully when stimulated, thus providing a neural basis for long-term memory of sensorimotor information linked by learning. Subsequent to ignition, activity vanished rapidly from APC neurons in sensorimotor areas but persisted in those in multimodal prefrontal and temporal areas. Such persistent activity provides a mechanism for working memory for actions, perceptions and symbols, including short-term phonological and semantic storage. Cell assembly ignition and “disembodied” working memory retreat of activity to multimodal areas are documented in the neurocomputational models’ activity dynamics, at the level of single cells, circuits, and cortical areas. Memory disembodiment is explained neuromechanistically by APC formation and structural neuroanatomical features of the model networks, especially the central role of multimodal prefrontal and temporal cortices in bridging between sensory and motor areas. These simulations answer the “where” question of cortical working memory in terms of distributed APCs and their inner structure, which is, in part, determined by neuroanatomical structure. As the neurocomputational model provides a mechanistic explanation of how memory-related “disembodied” neuronal activity emerges in “embodied” APCs, it may be key to solving aspects of the embodiment debate and eventually to a better understanding of cognitive brain functions.
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This chapter demonstrates how recent discoveries in cognitive neuroscience can help illuminate the nature of word meaning. The chapter is organized as follows. The first section presents the basic tenets of the Simulation Framework and summarizes three recent behavioral studies that provide evidence for it. The second section then reviews research in cognitive neuroscience that further elaborates and substantiates the Simulation Framework. It begins by describing a neurobiologically-based instantiation of the Simulation Framework called Convergence Zone Theory and then surveys empirical findings from a variety of studies that address the neural correlates of the visual semantic components of words for objects, events, and spatial relations. Next, the third section covers some recent typological work on crosslinguistic variation in thelexicalization of the visual world, and points out several questions that this work poses for cognitive neuroscience. The major topics are as follows: shape classifiers and the count/mass distinction; language-specific semantic maps across the universal conceptual domain of manner-of-motion; and topological vs. projective spatial relations, the latter category being defined in terms of three different frames of reference: intrinsic, relative, and absolute. The fourth section concludes the chapter by highlighting some important general aspects of how the Simulation Framework illuminates the nature of word meaning, while at the same time acknowledging some equally important limitations of this approach. © 2010 by Barbara C. Malt and Phillip Wolff. All rights reserved.
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The embodied view of language processing proposes that comprehension involves multimodal simulations, a process that retrieves a comprehender's perceptual, motor, and affective knowledge through reactivation of the neural systems responsible for perception, action, and emotion. Although evidence in support of this idea is growing, the contemporary neuroanatomical model of language suggests that comprehension largely emerges as a result of interactions between frontotemporal language areas in the left hemisphere. If modality-specific neural systems are involved in comprehension, they are not likely to operate in isolation but should interact with the brain regions critical to language processing. However, little is known about the ways in which language and modality-specific neural systems interact. To investigate this issue, we conducted a functional MRI study in which participants listened to stories that contained visually vivid, action-based, and emotionally charged content. Activity of neural systems associated with visual-spatial, motor, and affective processing were selectively modulated by the relevant story content. Importantly, when functional connectivity patterns associated with the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG), the left posterior middle temporal gyrus (pMTG), and the bilateral anterior temporal lobes (aTL) were compared, both LIFG and pMTG, but not the aTL, showed enhanced connectivity with the three modality-specific systems relevant to the story content. Taken together, our results suggest that language regions are engaged in perceptual, motor, and affective simulations of the described situation, which manifest through their interactions with modality-specific systems. On the basis of our results and past research, we propose that the LIFG and pMTG play unique roles in multimodal simulations during story comprehension.
Book
The now-classic Metaphors We Live By changed our understanding of metaphor and its role in language and the mind. Metaphor, the authors explain, is a fundamental mechanism of mind, one that allows us to use what we know about our physical and social experience to provide understanding of countless other subjects. Because such metaphors structure our most basic understandings of our experience, they are "metaphors we live by"--metaphors that can shape our perceptions and actions without our ever noticing them. In this updated edition of Lakoff and Johnson's influential book, the authors supply an afterword surveying how their theory of metaphor has developed within the cognitive sciences to become central to the contemporary understanding of how we think and how we express our thoughts in language.
Book
Chapter 1. The problem of definition.- Chapter 2. The WAT proposal and the role of language.- Chapter 3. Embodied and hybrid theories of abstract concepts and words.- Chapter 4 Word learning and word acquisition.- Chapter 5. What can neuroscience tell us about abstract concepts.- Chapter 6. Language, languages, and abstract concepts.- Afterword.
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This chapter argues that language comprehension is both embodied and symbolic. It notes that according to the symbol interdependency hypothesis comprehenders can ultimately ground symbols, but they also can rely on interdepndencies across symbols as a shortcut to the meaning of words. It provides an overview of the evidence supporting this hypothesis suggesting that embodied representations are activated under certain conditions and ultimately tend to be encoded in language structures.
Chapter
Roughly speaking, an abstract concept refers to entities that are neither purely physical nor spatially constrained. Such concepts pose a classic problem for theories that ground knowledge in modality-specific systems (e.g., Barsalou, 1999, 2003a, b). How could these systems represent a concept like TRUTH? Abstract concepts also pose a significant problem for traditional theories that represent knowledge with amodal symbols. Surprisingly, few researchers have attempted to specify the content of abstract concepts using feature lists, semantic networks, or frames. It is not enough to say that an amodal node or a pattern of amodal units represents an abstract concept. It is first necessary to specify the concept's content, and then to show that a particular type of representation can express it. Regardless of how one might go about representing TRUTH, its content must be identified. Then the task of identifying how this content is represented can begin. The primary purpose of this chapter is to explore the content of three abstract concepts: TRUTH, FREEDOM, and INVENTION. In an exploratory study, their content will be compared to the content of three concrete concepts – BIRD, CAR, and SOFA – and also to three intermediate concepts that seem somewhat concrete but more abstract than typical concrete concepts – COOKING, FARMING, and CARPETING. We will first ask participants to produce properties typically true of these concepts. We will then analyze these properties using two coding schemes.
Article
Neural reuse is a form of neuroplasticity whereby neural elements originally developed for one purpose are put to multiple uses. A diverse behavioral repertoire is achieved via the creation of multiple, nested, and overlapping neural coalitions, in which each neural element is a member of multiple different coalitions and cooperates with a different set of partners at different times. This has profound implications for how we think about our continuity with other species, for how we understand the similarities and differences between psychological processes, and for how best to pursue a unified science of the mind. After Phrenology surveys the terrain and advocates for a series of reforms in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. The book argues that, among other things, we should capture brain function in a multi-dimensional manner, develop a new, action-oriented vocabulary for psychology, and recognize that higher-order cognitive processes are built from complex configurations of already evolved circuitry.
Article
It is currently debated whether the meanings of words and objects are represented, in whole or in part, in a modality-specific format - the embodied cognition hypothesis. I argue that the embodied/disembodied cognition debate is either largely resolved in favour of the view that concepts are represented in an amodal format, or at a point where the embodied and disembodied approaches are no longer coherently distinct theories. This merits reconsideration of what the available evidence can tell us about the structure of the conceptual system. We know that the conceptual system engages, online, with sensory and motor content. This frames a new question: How is it that the human conceptual system is able to disengage from the sensorimotor system? Answering this question would say something about how the human mind is able to detach from the present and extrapolate from finite experience to hypothetical states of how the world could be. It is the independence of thought from perception and action that makes human cognition special - and that independence is guaranteed by the representational distinction between concepts and sensorimotor representations.
Article
What are the vehicles of conceptual thought? Recently, cognitive scientists and philosophers of psychology have developed quite different theories about what kinds of representations concepts are. At one extreme, amodal theories claim that concepts are representations whose vehicles are distinct from those used in perceptual processes. At the other end of the spectrum, neo-empiricism proposes that concepts are perceptual representations grounded in the mind's sensory, motor, and affective systems. In this essay, I examine how evidence from the neuropsychological disorder semantic dementia bears on philosophical debates about the nature of conceptual vehicles. I argue that the pattern of deficits in semantic dementia undermines recent neo-empiricist predictions about where and how conceptual knowledge is organized in the brain. I do not intend my analysis of semantic dementia to wholly discredit neo-empiricism; instead, I draw lessons for future theorizing about conceptual vehicles.
Book
Western philosophy has long been divided between empiricists, who argue thathuman understanding has its basis in experience, and rationalists, who arguethat reason is the source of knowledge. A central issue in the debate is thenature of concepts, the internal representations we use to think about theworld. The traditional empiricist thesis that concepts are built up fromsensory input has fallen out of favor. Mainstream cognitive science tends toecho the rationalist tradition, with its emphasis on innateness. In_Furnishing the Mind_, Jesse Prinz attempts to swing the pendulum back towardempiricism.Prinz provides a critical survey of leading theories of concepts, includingimagism, definitionism, prototype theory, exemplar theory, the theory theory,and informational atomism. He sets forth a new defense of concept empiricismthat draws on philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology and introduces a newversion of concept empiricism called proxytype theory. He also providesaccounts of abstract concepts, intentionality, narrow content, and conceptcombination. In an extended discussion of innateness, he covers Noam Chomsky'sarguments for the innateness of grammar, developmental psychologists'arguments for innate cognitive domains, and Jerry Fodor's argument for radicalconcept nativism.
Book
When historian Charles Weiner found pages of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman's notes, he saw it as a "record" of Feynman's work. Feynman himself, however, insisted that the notes were not a record but the work itself. In Supersizing the Mind, Andy Clark argues that our thinking doesn't happen only in our heads but that "certain forms of human cognizing include inextricable tangles of feedback, feed-forward and feed-around loops: loops that promiscuously criss-cross the boundaries of brain, body and world." The pen and paper of Feynman's thought are just such feedback loops, physical machinery that shape the flow of thought and enlarge the boundaries of mind. Drawing upon recent work in psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, robotics, human-computer systems, and beyond, Supersizing the Mind offers both a tour of the emerging cognitive landscape and a sustained argument in favor of a conception of mind that is extended rather than "brain- bound." The importance of this new perspective is profound. If our minds themselves can include aspects of our social and physical environments, then the kinds of social and physical environments we create can reconfigure our minds and our capacity for thought and reason.
Chapter
This chapter explains that multiple systems represent knowledge. It focuses on two resources of knowledge, believed to have strong empirical support - linguistic forms in the brain's language systems, and situated simulations in the brain's modal systems. Although this chapter focuses on two sources of knowledge, it does not exclude the possibility that other types are important as well. It argues that statistical representations play central roles throughout the brain, and that they underlie linguistic forms and situated simulations. It examines linguistic and modal approaches to the representation of knowledge. It proposes the language and situated simulation (LASS) theory as a preliminary framework for integrating these approaches. It then explores the evidence for the LASS theory, including evidence for dual code theory, Glaser's (1922) revision of dual code theory or the lexical hypothesis, evidence from the laboratories.
In this article, we review some important controversies about concepts in the philosophy of psychology, focusing particularly on the theories of concepts developed in philosophy, on the debate about the homogeneity of concepts, on neo-empiricism, and on concept learning. WIREs Cogn Sci 2012, 3:265-279. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1166 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
In this study, we examined the effects of emotional experience, a relatively new dimension of emotional knowledge that gauges the ease with which words evoke emotional experience, on abstract word processing in the Stroop task. In order to test the context-dependency of these effects, we accentuated the saliency of this dimension in Experiment 1A by blocking the stimuli such that one block consisted of the stimuli with the highest emotional experience ratings and the other block consisted of the stimuli with the lowest emotional experience ratings. We attenuated the saliency of this dimension in Experiment 1B by intermixing the stimuli. We observed slower color naming performance for words with higher emotional experience ratings only in Experiment 1A, suggesting that the dimension of emotional experience is an aspect of semantic representation for abstract words but that its influence can be modulated by context. We interpret these results more generally using Vigliocco, Meteyard, Andrews, and Kousta's (2009) framework of semantic representation, and more specifically using Cohen, Dunbar, and McClelland's (1990) model of Stroop task performance.
Article
The recent trend in cognitive robotics experiments on language learning, symbol grounding, and related issues necessarily entails a reduction of sensorimotor aspects from those provided by a human body to those that can be realized in machines, limiting robotic models of symbol grounding in this respect. Here, we argue that there is a need for modeling work in this domain to explicitly take into account the richer human embodiment even for concrete concepts that prima facie relate merely to simple actions, and illustrate this using distributional methods from computational linguistics which allow us to investigate grounding of concepts based on their actual usage. We also argue that these techniques have applications in theories and models of grounding, particularly in machine implementations thereof. Similarly, considering the grounding of concepts in human terms may be of benefit to future work in computational linguistics, in particular in going beyond "grounding" concepts in the textual modality alone. Overall, we highlight the overall potential for a mutually beneficial relationship between the two fields.
Article
Over the past 15 years, there have been two increasingly popular approaches to the study of meaning in cognitive science. One, based on theories of embodied cognition, treats meaning as a simulation of perceptual and motor states. An alternative approach treats meaning as a consequence of the statistical distribution of words across spoken and written language. On the surface, these appear to be opposing scientific paradigms. In this review, we aim to show how recent cross-disciplinary developments have done much to reconcile these two approaches. The foundation to these developments has been the recognition that intralinguistic distributional and sensory-motor data are interdependent. We describe recent work in philosophy, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and computational modeling that are all based on or consistent with this conclusion. We conclude by considering some possible directions for future research that arise as a consequence of these developments.
Article
As embodied theories of cognition are increasingly formalized and tested, care must be taken to make informed assumptions regarding the nature of concepts and representations. In this study, we outline three reasons why one cannot, in effect, represent the same concept twice. First, online perception affects offline representation: Current representational content depends on how ongoing demands direct attention to modality-specific systems. Second, language is a fundamental facilitator of offline representation: Bootstrapping and shortcuts within the computationally cheaper linguistic system continuously modify representational content. Third, time itself is a source of representational change: As the content of underlying concepts shifts with the accumulation of direct and vicarious experience, so too does the content of representations that draw upon these concepts. We discuss the ramifications of these principles for research into both human and synthetic cognitive systems.
Article
Embodied cognition offers an approach to word meaning firmly grounded in action and perception. A strong prediction of embodied cognition is that sensorimotor simulation is a necessary component of lexical-semantic representation. One semantic distinction where motor imagery is likely to play a key role involves the representation of manufactured artefacts. Many questions remain with respect to the scope of embodied cognition. One dominant unresolved issue is the extent to which motor enactment is necessary for representing and generating words with high motor salience. We investigated lesion correlates of manipulable relative to nonmanipulable name generation (e.g., name a school supply; name a mountain range) in patients with nonfluent aphasia (N = 14). Lesion volumes within motor (BA4, where BA = Brodmann area) and premotor (BA6) cortices were not predictive of category discrepancies. Lesion symptom mapping linked impairment for manipulable objects to polymodal convergence zones and to projections of the left, primary visual cortex specialized for motion perception (MT/V5+). Lesions to motor and premotor cortex were not predictive of manipulability impairment. This lesion correlation is incompatible with an embodied perspective premised on necessity of motor cortex for the enactment and subsequent production of motor-related words. These findings instead support a graded or "soft" approach to embodied cognition premised on an ancillary role of modality-specific cortical regions in enriching modality-neutral representations. We discuss a dynamic, hybrid approach to the neurobiology of semantic memory integrating both embodied and disembodied components.
Article
The debate on whether language comprehension involves the manipulation of abstract symbols or is grounded in perception and action has reached an impasse, with authors from different theoretical persuasions unable to agree on the diagnostic value of empirical findings. To escape this impasse, I propose a pluralist view of cognition that encompasses abstract and grounded symbols. The contributions of these symbol types to language comprehension vary as a function of the degree to which language use is embedded in the environment. I distinguish five levels of embeddedness: demonstration, instruction, projection, displacement, and abstraction. Only through a closer analysis of context will we make significant progress toward understanding language comprehension and cognition in general.
Article
Previous research has shown that readers generate mental images of events. Most studies have investigated imagery during the reading of short texts, which also included explicit judgment tasks. In two fMRI studies, we assessed whether modality-specific imagery occurs during naturalistic, discourse comprehension. We identified clauses in the texts that elicited auditory, motor, or visual imagery. In both studies, reading motor imagery clauses was associated with increases in activity in left postcentral and precentral sulci, and reading auditory imagery clauses was associated with increases in left superior temporal gyrus and perisylvian language-related regions. Study 2 compared presentation of connected discourse to a condition in which unconnected sentences were presented, preventing the establishment of global coherence. Sensorimotor imagery was strongest when readers were able to generate a globally coherent discourse representation. Overall, these results suggest that modality-specific imagery occurs during discourse comprehension and it is dependent on the development of discourse-level representations.
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