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Verbal labels modulate perception - New paper in JEP:HPP

Dr. Jouravlev and her collaborators from Western (Alex Taikh and Dr. Debra Jared) have published their ERP research testing the label feedback hypothesis.

Words are useful in communicating to others about objects in our environment. Lupyan (2012) has recently claimed that verbal labels may also influence our perception and mental representations of those objects. His proposal is called the label feedback hypothesis. Labels are presumed to send feedback activation to their associated perceptual representations. We tested this hypothesis in two experiments using event-related potentials. In prior research, it has been shown that having two different word labels made two perceptually similar objects appear more

distinct (e.g., Boutonnet, Dering, Viñas-Guasch, & Thierry, 2013; Thierry, Athanasopoulos, Wiggett, Dering, & Kuipers, 2009). Here we examined whether having the same label made two very distinct objects appear more similar. In Experiment 1, the critical images shared a label as well as some perceptual features (orange, referring to the color and the fruit), and in Experiment 2, the critical images shared a label but no perceptual features (bat, referring to the animal and the sports equipment). In both experiments, the results revealed that the brain treats distinct objects sharing a label as more similar compared with objects that do not share a label. These results indicate that language is not functionally encapsulated in the human brain; instead language is highly integrated with, and can rapidly modulate, other cognitive processes such as object perception.

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