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Getting a grip on sensorimotor effects in lexical–semantic processing

Heard, Alison; Madan, Christopher R.; Protzner, Andrea B.; Pexman, Penny M.


Alison Heard

Andrea B. Protzner

Penny M. Pexman


One of the strategies that researchers have used to investigate the role of sensorimotor information in lexical-semantic processing is to examine effects of words’ rated body-object interaction (BOI; the ease with which the human body can interact with a word’s referent). Processing tends to be facilitated for words with high BOI compared to words with low BOI, across a wide variety of tasks. Such effects have been referenced in debates over the nature of semantic representations, but their theoretical import has been limited by the fact that BOI is a fairly coarse measure of sensorimotor experience with words’ referents. In the present study we collected ratings for 621 words on seven semantic dimensions (graspability, ease of pantomime, number of actions, animacy, size, danger, and usefulness) in order to investigate which attributes are most strongly related to BOI ratings, and to lexical-semantic processing. BOI ratings were obtained from previous norming studies (Bennett, Burnett, Siakaluk, & Pexman, 2011; Tillotson, Siakaluk, & Pexman, 2008) and measures of lexical-semantic processing were obtained from previous behavioural megastudies involving the semantic categorization task (concrete/abstract decision; Pexman, Heard, Lloyd, & Yap, 2017) and the lexical decision task (Balota et al., 2007). Results showed that the motor dimension of graspability, ease of pantomime, and number of actions were all related to BOI and that these dimensions together explained more variance in semantic processing than did BOI ratings alone. These ratings will be useful for researchers who wish to study how different kinds of bodily interactions influence lexical-semantic processing and cognition.


Heard, A., Madan, C. R., Protzner, A. B., & Pexman, P. M. (2019). Getting a grip on sensorimotor effects in lexical–semantic processing. Behavior Research Methods, 51(1), 1-13.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 11, 2018
Online Publication Date Jul 2, 2018
Publication Date Feb 15, 2019
Deposit Date Jun 14, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jul 3, 2019
Journal Behavior Research Methods
Print ISSN 1554-351X
Electronic ISSN 1554-3528
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 51
Issue 1
Pages 1-13
Keywords Body-object interaction; Semantic decision task; Lexical decision task; Motor ratings; Visual word recognition
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:
Additional Information This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Behavior Research Methods. The final authenticated version is available online at:


Heard et al preprint.pdf (618 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:

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