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Previous research has shown that na_ve participants display a high level of agreement when asked to choose or drawschematic representations, or image schemas, of concrete and abstract verbs [Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2001, Erlbaum, Mawhah, NJ, p. 873]. For example, participants tended to ascribe a horizontal image schema to push, and a vertical image schema to respect. This consistency in offline data is preliminary evidence that language invokes spatial forms of representation. It also provided norms that were used in the present research to investigate the activation of spatial image schemas during online language comprehension. We predicted that if comprehending a verb activates a spatial representation that is extended along a particular horizontal or vertical axis, it will affect other forms of spatial processing along that axis. Participants listened to short sentences while engaged in a visual discrimination task (Experiment 1) and a picture memory task (Experiment 2). In both cases, reaction times showed an interaction between the horizontal/vertical nature of the verb's image schema, and the horizontal/vertical position of the visual stimuli. We argue that such spatial effects of verb comprehension provide evidence for the perceptual–motor character of linguistic representations.
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