Cognitive Science Perspectives on Verb Representation and Processing

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The purpose of this study was to address the question suggested by the mental accounting theory, that is, whether people use cognitive operations for processing financial activities Thaler, Recently, Baroni et al. However, the effect on RTs was only found when participants were required to explicitly discriminate between gain and loss, while there was failure in detecting this effect when they were required to discriminate between economic and no economic terms.

This last experiment suggests a left to right encoding for gain and loss meaning even in implicit tasks. Our study differs from the research conducted by Baroni et al. According to the initial prediction we found a left-to-right spatial compatibility for trading verbs. In particular, participants were significantly faster in detecting verbs indicating a monetary loss i.

However, we did not detect a left-to-right spatial compatibility for swapping verbs.

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This suggests that the incoming vs. In fact, if this was the case, a left-right compatibility would have been detected also for the swapping category. In the light of this argument, one could argue at least two alternative suggestions to explain the current result.

One possibility is that the left-right compatibility reported for trading verbs might reflect the higher economical relevance of this linguistic category, compared to the swapping category. As already discussed in the introduction, a dense literature Dehaene et al. According to this interpretation our data can be intended as a support to the mental accounting theory Thaler, stating that people use cognitive operations for processing financial activities. In fact, the current result suggests that linguistic terms referring to economics are spatially mapped similarly to numbers.

This implies the suggestion that the left-right compatibility reported for trading verbs might reflect a SNARC-like effect for this linguistic material as well as for magnitude processing Vicario and Martino, Several arguments can be provided in support of this hypothesis. First, a common Intraparietal Sulcus IPS activation has been observed when participants performed calculation, linguistic and saccadic movement tasks Sereno et al. In fact, this area has been identified by these authors as the neural correlate of the mental accounting and linguistic competence interplay; Second, learning difficulties in mathematics i.

This co-morbidity could be related to the malfunctioning of the left angular gyrus, a brain area that has been found to be affected in patients with Gerstmann who show not only acalculia but also left—right disorientation; Third, patients with cortico-basal degeneration CBD can show a severe difficulty in understanding small numbers as well as quantifier terms McMillan et al.

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They also provided a further support to this view by performing a neuroimaging study investigating quantifier comprehension in healthy adults McMillan et al. Semantic theorists e. McMillan et al. In fact, parietal activation was also widely reported in subjects asked to perform a simple number processing Cohen et al.

An alternative, no less important, interpretation to the current results might refer to the body-specificity hypothesis Casasanto, , ; Kominsky and Casasanto, ; Kong, , stating that people conceptualize bad and good in terms of left-right spatial encoding, according to their handedness. For example, Casasanto showed that right-handers tend to associate rightward space with positive ideas and leftward space with negative ideas this pattern was reversed in left-handers.


In fact, while trading verbs might be conceptualized as endowed of an emotionally positive i. The results reported for the swapping category provide some support to the Space-valence hypothesis. Moreover, the permutation test did not confirm a significant difference comparing going out with respect to incoming swapping verbs when using the left hand. This might be explained with the fact that all our participants were right handed.

In fact, the spatial mapping of valence hypothesis predicts a performance advantage with the dominant hand. The spatial mapping of valence hypothesis might represent a valid interpretation for explaining the current results. However, this study does not provide definitive evidence in support of this interpretation since we did not test left-handed people. Worthy of some discussion is the difference in the familiarity ranking score provided by our participants for the three verb categories.

In fact, going out swapping verbs were perceived as more familiar than incoming swapping verbs.

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Our study bears some important limitations that might be addressed in future works. First, we did not collect any ranking about the economical relevance subjectively associated to the verbs presented in this research. Second, trading and swapping verbs were administered in separated blocks.

This might represent an issue since verbs within blocks might have interacted such as cueing. In fact, thinking verbs, which were used as a control condition, were detected faster in the swapping block than in the trading block. However, the permutation analysis suggests that the reported effects for the trading category are not related to the blocked design.

Finally, we did not test RTs performance in left handed participants, this because our research goal was testing the existence of a SNARC like-effect for linguistic items associated to the economical profit category i. Further investigations including brain imaging and non-invasive brain stimulation methods, but also left-handed participants are needed to clarify whether the current results underlie the linguistic representation of economical outcomes.

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. Andrea Pavan for the assistance with the permutation analysis. Baroni, G. La rappresentazione spaziale di parole economiche.

CrossRef Full Text. Casasanto, D. Embodiment of abstract concepts: good and bad in right- and left-handers. Different bodies, different minds: the body-specificity of language and thought.

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Cohen, L. Language and calculation within the parietal lobe: a combined cognitive, anatomical and fMRI study. Neuropsychologia 38, — Damasio, A. New York: Avon Books. Dehaene, S. Is numerical comparison digital? Analogical and symbolic effects in two-digit number comparison. Elster, J. Emotions and economic theory. Fehr, E. Social neuroeconomics: the neural circuitry of social preferences.

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Verified email at ling-phil. Language processing Syntax-semantics interface. Articles Cited by Co-authors. Journal of cognitive neuroscience 23 11 , , Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 31 2 , , The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 69 5 , , Proceedings of the 47th annual Chicago Linguistics Society. CLS ,