Quick Linguistic Representations and Precise Perceptual Representations: Language Statistics and Perceptual Simulations under Time Constraints

Sterling HutchinsonTilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands
Richard TillmanTilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands
Max LouwerseTilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands

Abstract

Many studies have argued that language comprehension requires perceptual simulation. In previous work we have demonstrated that because language encodes perceptual relations, comprehenders can also rely on language statistics to bootstrap meaning through limited grounding. The extent comprehenders do this depends on the nature of the cognitive task, the stimulus, the individual, as well as the speed of processing, with linguistic representations preceding perceptual simulation. In the current study we report results that investigated whether time constraints impacted the use of perceptual and linguistic factors during language processing. Participants made fast or slow speeded judgments about whether pairs of words were semantically related. Subjects were also instructed to either respond as quickly as possible to the words they were presented, or respond as accurately as possible. The perceptual factor was operationalized as an iconicity rating of the stimulus pairs occurring in a particular orientation in the real world and the linguistic factor was operationalized as the frequency of the stimulus pairs in language. The linguistic factor best explained the RTs when subjects had to respond quickly. On the other hand, when given more time to respond, both linguistic and perceptual factors explained response times. These findings support the view that language processing is both linguistic and embodied, with linguistic representations being relevant for quick good-enough representations and perceptual simulations being important for more precise information.

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