Vol. 27, No. 1
Flexible use of perceptuomotor knowledge in lexical and semantic decision tasks
1 Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA
People know a lot about the perceivable properties of objects in their environments. We know, for example, that peacocks are colorful, ashtrays are smelly, and hammers are typically grasped in one hand. This study examines the extent to which several modality-specific object attribute ratings can account for performance in lexical and semantic decisions tasks. Seven continuously distributed variables from object attribute rating norms (smell intensity, color vividness, taste pleasantness, sound intensity, graspability, likelihood of motion, likelihood of pain) are used to predict decision latencies from three tasks varying in depth of semantic processing (living / nonliving; concrete / abstract; word / nonword). After controlling for standard word form and lexical variables, two modality-specific variables significantly predicted decision latencies in each task. Separate analyses were conducted for items denoting living things and items denoting nonliving things. In each task, modality-specific variables accounted for more variance in living thing latencies, and non-semantic variables accounted for more variance in nonliving thing latencies. These results suggest that modality-specific knowledge can be used flexibly to aid in lexical and semantic decision-making and are most consistent with “lexicon-free” models of word recognition.