Grounding conceptual knowledge in modality-specific systems

Barsalou, L. W. , Simmons, W.K., Barbey, A. K. and Wilson, C. D. (2003) Grounding conceptual knowledge in modality-specific systems. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(2), pp. 84-91. (doi: 10.1016/S1364-6613(02)00029-3) (PMID:12584027)

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The human conceptual system contains knowledge that supports all cognitive activities, including perception, memory, language and thought. According to most current theories, states in modality-specific systems for perception, action and emotion do not represent knowledge – rather, redescriptions of these states in amodal representational languages do. Increasingly, however, researchers report that re-enactments of states in modality-specific systems underlie conceptual processing. In behavioral experiments, perceptual and motor variables consistently produce effects in conceptual tasks. In brain imaging experiments, conceptual processing consistently activates modality-specific brain areas. Theoretical research shows how modality-specific re-enactments could produce basic conceptual functions, such as the type–token distinction, categorical inference, productivity, propositions and abstract concepts. Together these empirical results and theoretical analyses implicate modality-specific systems in the representation and use of conceptual knowledge.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barsalou, Professor Lawrence
Authors: Barsalou, L. W., Simmons, W.K., Barbey, A. K., and Wilson, C. D.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Publisher:Elsevier Ltd.
ISSN (Online):1879-307X

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