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Investigating the Link between Action Language and Action Performance

Moody, Claire (2011) Investigating the Link between Action Language and Action Performance. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Proponents of embodied cognition claim that the meaning of language is not stored amodally but is grounded within modality-specific brain regions. A large body of work supports this view by demonstrating that action language processing elicits motoric activation and behaviourally interacts with action performance. The fMRI and behavioural experiments described in the following chapters aimed to address several gaps in our current understanding of the nature of these language-induced motoric representations. By manipulating particular aspects of action language such as hand use and physical effort, the fMRI data supports the hypothesis that language evokes the activation of very specific and detailed action representations. As the effort information could only be derived from the combination of word meaning across the sentence, it was shown that these effects are not simply driven by single action verbs but by the integration of several activated semantic networks. Furthermore, the regions that were activated by action language are those that are involved in action planning as opposed to action execution, highlighting that these action representations are of a cognitive and abstract nature. Behavioural experiments were conducted to evaluate the functional significance of these embodied motoric activations. Despite observing modality specific representations using fMRI, when action and language shared specific physical effort attributes, behavioural interaction effects were absent, indicating that motoric activity may not necessarily be required for the processing of action language. The role that the motor system plays in the comprehension of action language is unclear from the evidence presented, as methodological issues may have played a part in generating this null result. The conclusions made from this selection of experiments and the implications of this research within the wider literature are further discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Psychology (York)
Depositing User: Miss Claire Moody
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2012 14:48
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2034

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