Perceptual simulation in developing language comprehension

Jan A. A. Engelen*, Samantha Bouwmeester, Anique B. H. de Bruin, Rolf A. Zwaan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

54 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

We tested an embodied account of language proposing that comprehenders create perceptual simulations of the events they hear and read about. In Experiment 1, children (ages 7-13 years) performed a picture verification task. Each picture was preceded by a prerecorded spoken sentence describing an entity whose shape or orientation matched or mismatched the depicted object. Responses were faster for matching pictures, suggesting that participants had formed perceptual-like situation models of the sentences. The advantage for matching pictures did not increase with age. Experiment 2 extended these findings to the domain of written language. Participants (ages 7-10 years) of high and low word reading ability verified pictures after reading sentences aloud. The results suggest that even when reading is effortful, children construct a perceptual simulation of the described events. We propose that perceptual simulation plays a more central role in developing language comprehension than was previously thought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-675
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume110
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

Keywords

  • Language comprehension
  • Embodied cognition
  • Perceptual simulation
  • Language development
  • Word reading
  • Reading comprehension

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