Journal article

The relation between body semantics and spatial body representations

The present study addressed the relation between body semantics (i.e. semantic knowledge about the human body) and spatial body representations, by presenting participants with word pairs, one below the other, referring to body parts. The spatial position of the word pairs could be congruent (e.g. EYE / MOUTH) or incongruent (MOUTH / EYE) with respect to the spatial position of the words' referents. In addition, the spatial distance between the words' referents was varied, resulting in word pairs referring to body parts that are close (e.g. EYE / MOUTH) or far in space (e.g. EYE / FOOT). A spatial congruency effect was observed when subjects made an iconicity judgment (Experiments 2 and 3) but not when making a semantic relatedness judgment (Experiment 1). In addition, when making a semantic relatedness judgment (Experiment 1) reaction times increased with increased distance between the body parts but when making an iconicity judgment (Experiments 2 and 3) reaction times decreased with increased distance. These findings suggest that the processing of body-semantics results in the activation of a detailed visuo-spatial body representation that is modulated by the specific task requirements. We discuss these new data with respect to theories of embodied cognition and body semantics. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Related material