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

692 Scopus citations

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

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