Grounding conceptual knowledge in modality-specific systems

Lawrence W. Barsalou, W. Kyle Simmons, Aron K. Barbey, Christine D. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-91
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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