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The effects of sensorimotor and linguistic information on the basic-level advantage

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number105606
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2023
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date16/09/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The basic-level advantage is one of the best-known effects in human categorisation. Traditional accounts argue that basic-level categories present a maximally informative or entry level into a taxonomic organisation of concepts in semantic memory. However, these explanations are not fully compatible with most recent views on the structure of the conceptual system such as linguistic-simulation accounts, which emphasise the dual role of sensorimotor (i.e., perception-action experience of the world) and linguistic distributional information (i.e., statistical distribution of words in language) in conceptual processing. In four preregistered word→picture categorisation studies, we examined whether novel measures of sensorimotor and linguistic distance contribute to the basic level-advantage in categorical decision-making. Results showed that overlap in sensorimotor experience between category concept and member concept (e.g., animal→dog) predicted RT and accuracy at least as well as a traditional division into discrete subordinate, basic, and superordinate taxonomic levels. Furthermore, linguistic distributional information contributed to capturing effects of graded category structure where typicality ratings did not. Finally, when image label production frequency was taken into account (i.e., how often people actually produced specific labels for images), linguistic distributional information predicted RT and accuracy above and beyond sensorimotor information. These findings add to our understanding of how sensorimotor-linguistic theories of the conceptual system can explain categorisation behaviour.

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Export Date: 29 September 2023