Effects of social experience on abstract concepts in semantic priming

Frontiers in Psychology 13 (2022)
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Humans can understand thousands of abstract words, even when they do not have clearly perceivable referents. Recent views highlight an important role of social experience in grounding of abstract concepts and sub-kinds of abstract concepts, but empirical work in this area is still in its early stages. In the present study, a picture-word semantic priming paradigm was employed to investigate the contribution effect of social experience that is provided by real-life pictures to social abstract concepts and emotional abstract concepts. Using a lexical decision task, we examined responses to picture-SA word pairs and picture-EA word pairs in social/emotional semantically related and unrelated conditions. All pairs shared either positive or negative valence. The results showed quicker responses to positive SA and EA words that were preceded by related vs. unrelated prime pictures. Specifically, positive SA words were facilitated by the corresponding social scene pictures, whereas positive EA words were facilitated by pictures depict the corresponding facial expressions and gestures. However, such facilitatory effect was not observed in negative picture-SA/EA word conditions. This pattern of results suggests that a facilitatory effect of social experience on abstract concepts varies with different sub-kinds of abstract concepts, that seems to be limited to positive SA concepts. Overall, our findings confirm the crucial role of social experience for abstract concepts and further suggest that not all abstract concepts can benefit from social experience, at least in the semantic priming.



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What do we prime? On distinguishing between semantic priming, procedural priming, and goal priming.Jens Forster, Nira Liberman & Ronald S. Friedman - 2009 - In Ezequiel Morsella, John A. Bargh & Peter M. Gollwitzer (eds.), Oxford handbook of human action. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 173--193.


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