Relative Contribution of Perception/Cognition and Language on Spatial Categorization

Cognitive Science 36 (1):102-129 (2012)
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Abstract

This study investigated the relative contribution of perception/cognition and language-specific semantics in nonverbal categorization of spatial relations. English and Korean speakers completed a video-based similarity judgment task involving containment, support, tight fit, and loose fit. Both perception/cognition and language served as resources for categorization, and allocation between the two depended on the target relation and the features contrasted in the choices. Whereas perceptual/cognitive salience for containment and tight-fit features guided categorization in many contexts, language-specific semantics influenced categorization where the two features competed for similarity judgment and when the target relation was tight support, a domain where spatial relations are perceptually diverse. In the latter contexts, each group categorized more in line with semantics of their language, that is, containment/support for English and tight/loose fit for Korean. We conclude that language guides spatial categorization when perception/cognition alone is not sufficient. In this way, language is an integral part of our cognitive domain of space.

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