The highs and lows of the interaction between word meaning and space

Therese Thornton, Tobias Loetscher, Mark Yates, Michael Nicholls

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    31 Citations (Scopus)


    We examined whether the processing of words associated with distinct spatial locations automatically biases behavior toward these locations in space. In four experiments (Ns=30, 34, 32, 32), participants were shown stimuli denoting objects typically associated with the upper and lower regions of visual space. In Experiment 1, words were categorized as man-made or natural by pressing one of two vertically arranged keys. Reaction times were faster for trials in which response locations were congruent with the stimulus-associated locations. Experiment 2 replicated the stimulus-response congruency effect when the stimuli were presented in a pictorial format. Stimuli-space interactions therefore seem to be driven by an automatic activation of the spatial attributes associated with the stimuli, irrespective of input format. In Experiments 3 and 4, a target detection task involving only one response button was employed to examine whether the effects observed in the first two experiments were due to attentional shifts, independent of response selection processes. In both experiments, the previously observed congruence effect between words and space either diminished or vanished completely. Consequently, the results of the four experiments in the current study point to a dominant role of response-selection processes in the genesis of space-object word interactions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)964-973
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


    • Embodied cognition
    • Language comprehension
    • Spatial attention
    • Spatial cognition
    • Stimulus-response compatibility


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