fMRI evidence for word association and situated simulation in conceptual processing

W. Kyle Simmons, Stephan B. Hamann, Carla L. Harenski, Xiaoping P. Hu, Lawrence W. Barsalou

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137 Scopus citations


The LASS theory proposes that Language and Situated Simulation both play central roles in conceptual processing. Depending on stimuli and task conditions, different mixtures of language and simulation occur. When a word is processed in a conceptual task, it first activates other linguistic forms, such as word associates. More slowly, the word activates a situated simulation to represent its meaning in neural systems for perception, action, and mental states. An fMRI experiment tested the LASS account. In a first scanning session, participants performed the property generation task to provide a measure of conceptual processing. In a second scanning session a week later, participants performed two localizer tasks measuring word association and situated simulation. Conjunction analyses supported predictions of the LASS theory. Activations early in conceptual processing overlapped with activations for word association. Activations late in conceptual processing overlapped with activations for situation generation. These results, along with others in the literature, indicate that conceptual processing uses multiple representations, not one. Furthermore, researchers must be careful drawing conclusions about conceptual processing, given that different paradigms are likely to produce different mixtures of language and simulation. Whereas some paradigms produce high levels of linguistic processing and low levels of simulation, other paradigms produce the opposite pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-119
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physiology Paris
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Action
  • Conceptual processing
  • Language
  • Language And Situated Simulation (LASS)
  • Word recognition


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