Font Can Change How We Think About What We Think

Chelsea GordonUniversity of California, Merced, Merced, CA, United States
Sarah AndersonNielsen Company, 53 Brown Rd. Ithace, NY 14850
Michael SpiveyUniversity of California, Merced


It has recently been suggested that much of the research in embodied cognition can be explained by a “disembodied” account in which conceptual and cognitive processes perform their computations in a modular fashion and the sensory and motor associations that show up in embodiment experiments may arise merely from spreading activation from the cognitive module to the sensory and motor systems (Mahon & Caramazza, 2008). In such a model, the cognitive module processes its information and accesses its representations exactly the same way as it always would have, and the embodiment effects are essentially epiphenomenal. We test this idea by manipulating the sensory aspects of the perceptual input that triggers the activation of a concept. Throughout the history of conceptual representation research, feature lists of concepts have been treated as a method for accessing the semantic content of those conceptual representations. When there are sensory differences in the font of the written word that triggers accessing of a concept, does the concept get accessed in a different way? Are different conceptual features more prominent than others? We find a series of conceptual features that are more prominent when the concept is presented in one font versus the other. Continuations of this research project involve reaction-time priming experiments to see if these differential access effects happen at the timescale of hundreds of milliseconds. Our results are discussed in the context of competing or compatible accounts of embodied and symbolic cognitive processes.


Font Can Change How We Think About What We Think (448 KB)

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