Pupillary responses to words that convey a sense of brightness or darkness

Sebastiaan Mathot*, Jonathan Grainger, Kristof Strijkers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
299 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Theories about embodiment of language hold that when you process a word's meaning, you automatically simulate associated sensory input (e.g., perception of brightness when you process lamp) and prepare associated actions (e.g., finger movements when you process typing). To test this latter prediction, we measured pupillary responses to single words that conveyed a sense of brightness (e.g., day) or darkness (e.g., night) or were neutral (e.g., house). We found that pupils were largest for words conveying darkness, of intermediate size for neutral words, and smallest for words conveying brightness. This pattern was found for both visually presented and spoken words, which suggests that it was due to the words' meanings, rather than to visual or auditory properties of the stimuli. Our findings suggest that word meaning is sufficient to trigger a pupillary response, even when this response is not imposed by the experimental task, and even when this response is beyond voluntary control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1116-1124
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Volume28
Issue number8
Early online date14-Jun-2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1-Aug-2017

Keywords

  • pupillometry
  • language comprehension
  • embodied cognition
  • pupillary light response
  • open data
  • open materials
  • LANGUAGE COMPREHENSION
  • LIGHT RESPONSE
  • EYE
  • PERCEPTION
  • MOTION
  • BRAIN
  • EMBODIMENT
  • MECHANISMS
  • MOVEMENTS
  • SEMANTICS

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