Concepts, categories and embodied cognition

Nicholas Shipp and Sue Anthony have led research examining the organisation of semantic memory. This has included tasks which show how participants make categorical decisions based on shared taxonomic (feature-based) or thematic (situational) information. In addition, this research has investigated how participants’ use ‘action’ as a means for category decisions (e.g., grouping water pistols with rifles because they are both operated with a ‘trigger’). The use of action-based information has direct implications for the organisation of conceptual knowledge, that the mental representation of objects is dependent on sensorimotor activity (embodied cognition). Support for this has been found in tasks where participants are faster to comprehend sentences such as “You closed the drawer” when their arm moves away from the body, and faster for “You opened the drawer” when their arm towards the body.

Current projects include:

  • The role of action in categorisation and its implications for the mental representation of concepts.
  • Individual preferences in taxonomic and thematic categorisation.
  • Theoretical underpinnings and the replicability of the Action-Sentence Compatibility Effect (ACE).
  • Investigating strategies for assessments of similarity and differences in autistic and neurotypical populations.