Investigating the Role of Action Representations in Sentence Comprehension




Heard, Alison

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The effect hand action representations have on language processing was investigated using eye-tracking techniques. Subjects were shown an image of a hand action and asked to hold the action in working memory while reading a sentence, which described an actor lifting, or using an object. The displayed hand actions were related to either a functional (using) or volumetric (lifting) interaction with an object that matched or did not match the object mentioned in the sentence. A neutral condition was also used which displayed a black circle instead of a hand action. No significant difference was found between any of the five working memory conditions for gaze duration, probability of word skipping, and several other dependent measures utilized in the study. A significant difference was found for gaze duration when the conditions were restricted. Shorter gaze duration was observed for the hand action congruent to both the context and the object mentioned in the sentence and longer gaze duration was observed for the hand action congruent to only the sentence context. Some possible explanations of the results are that subjects may not have encoded the hand actions as action representations, or that hand actions represented in working memory have no effect on sentence processing.



psychology, eye tracking