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What have labels ever done for us?: The linguistic shortcut in conceptual processing

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/05/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Language, Cognition and Neuroscience
Number of pages11
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date11/05/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English


How does language affect cognition? Is it important that most of our concepts come with linguistic labels, such as car or number? The statistical distributions of how such labels co-occur in language offers a rich medium of associative information that can support conceptual processing in a number of ways. In this article, I argue that the role of language in conceptual processing goes far beyond mere support, and that language is as fundamental and intrinsic a part of conceptual processing as sensorimotor-affective simulations. In particular, because linguistic association tends to be computationally cheaper than simulation (i.e. faster, less effortful, but still information-rich), it enables an heuristic mechanism that can provide adequate conceptual representation without the need to develop a detailed simulation. I review the evidence for this key mechanism – the linguistic shortcut – and propose that it allows labels to sometimes carry the burden of conceptual processing by acting in place of simulated referent meanings, according to context, available resources, and processing goals.