Role of mental imagery in a property verification task: fMRI evidence for perceptual semantic representations.

Is our knowledge about the appearance of objects more closely related to verbal thought or to perception? In a behavioural study using a property verification task, Kosslyn (1976) reported that there are both amodal and perceptual representations of concepts, but that amodal representations may be more easily accessed. However, Solomon (1997) argued that due to the nature of Kosslyn’s stimuli, subjects may be able to bypass semantics entirely and perform this task using differences in the strength of association between words in true trials (e.g., cat–whiskers) and those in false trials (e.g., mouse–stinger). Solomon found no evidence for amodal representations when the task materials were altered to include associated false trials (e.g., cat–litter), which require semantic processing, as opposed to associative strategies. In the current study, we used fMRI to examine the response of regions of visual association cortex while subjects performed a property verification task with either associated or unassociated false trials. Wefound reliable activity across subjects within the left fusiform gyrus when true trials were intermixed with associated false trials but not when true trials were intermixed with unassociated false trials. Our data support the idea that conceptual knowledge is organised visually and that it is grounded in the perceptual system.

Main Author: Kan, Irene P.
Other Authors: Barsalou, Lawrence W., Solomon, Karen Olseth, Minor, Jeris K., Thompson-Schill, Sharon L.
Language: English
Published: 2003
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