The kinematics, not the orientation, of an action influences language processing


Data and stimuli used in the article

Reference

Beauprez, S.-A., & Bidet-Ildei, C. (2018). The kinematics, not the orientation, of an action influences language processing,  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 44, 1712-1726doi: 10.1037/xhp0000568

Abstract

Consistent with the embodied view of cognition, several studies have shown a link between action and the processing of action verbs. However, it is largely unknown how action properties can influence semantic activation during word processing. Based on the observation of point-light displays, the present study addressed this issue. Through four experiments, we assessed whether kinematics and orientation, which are two crucial characteristics of human action, can influence the link between action and language. Participants performed a semantic decision task involving action and nonaction verbs after seeing a point-light display representing either a biological or a nonbiological human movement, the kinematics (Experiments 1 and 2) or orientation (Experiment 3) of which was modified. Experiment 1 showed that important modifications to the kinematics of actions have a direct influence on the link between action and language. Experiment 2 confirmed this effect and showed that the effect is somatotopic because only modifications to the relevant part of actions affected the link between action and language. In contrast, Experiment 3 showed that modifying the orientation did not disturb the influence of an action on language probably due to the use of a mental rotation strategy. Experiment 4 confirmed this view by demonstrating the use of mental rotation when participants have to recognize rotated point-light actions. These outcomes shed light on how action properties can influence action verbs processing, a crucial step to better understanding the link between action and language.

Keywords: Point-light displays, Biological movement, Kinematics, Orientation, Action verb processing; somatotopy; mental rotation.