Skip to main content Accessibility help

Embodied semantic processing: The body-object interaction effect in a non-manual task

  • Michele Wellsby (a1), Paul D. Siakaluk (a1), William J. Owen (a1) and Penny M. Pexman (a2)


Body-object interaction (BOI) measures people's perceptions of the ease with which a human body can physically interact with a word's referent. Facilitatory BOI effects, involving faster responses for high BOI words, have been reported in a number of visual word recognition tasks using button press responses. Since BOI effects have only been observed in button-press tasks, it is possible that the effects may be due to priming by high BOI words of the motor system, rather than activation of stored motor information in the lexical semantic system. If this hypothesis is correct, BOI effects should not be observed in tasks using verbal responses. We tested this hypothesis in three versions of a go/no-go semantic categorization task: one version required button press responses, whereas the other two versions required verbal responses. Contrary to the motor priming hypothesis, we observed facilitatory BOI effects in all three versions of the semantic categorization task. These results support the inference that stored motor information is indeed an important component of the lexical semantic system.


Corresponding author

Correspondence addresses: P. Siakaluk, Psychology Department, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC, CanadaV2N 4Z9. E-mail:


Hide All
Baayen, R. H., Piepenbrock, R. & Gulikers, L.. 1995. The CELEX lexical database [CD-ROM]. Philadelphia: Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Pennsylvania.
Balota, D. A., Pilotti, M. & Cortese, M. J.. 2001. Subjective frequency estimates for 2,938 monosyllabic words. Memory and Cognition 29. 639647.
Barsalou, L. W. 1999. Perceptual symbol systems. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22. 577660.
Barsalou, L. W. 2003a. Abstraction in perceptual symbol systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences 358. 11771187.
Barsalou, L. W. 2003b. Situated simulation in the human conceptual system. Language and Cognitive Processes 18. 513562.
Barsalou, L. W., Simmons, W. K., Barbey, A. K. & Wilson, C. D.. 2003. Grounding conceptual knowledge in modality-specific systems. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7. 8491.
Buchanan, L., Westbury, C. & Burgess, C.. 2001. Characterizing semantic space: Neighborhood effects in word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 8. 531544.
Cortese, M. J. & Fugett, A.. 2004. Imageability ratings for 3,000 monosyllabic words. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers 36. 384387.
Cortese, M. J., Simpson, G. B. & Woolsey, S.. 1997. Effects of association and imageability on phonological mapping. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 4. 226231.
Davis, C. J. 2005. N-Watch: A program for deriving neighborhood size and other psycholinguistic statistics. Behavior Research Methods 37. 6570.
Glenberg, A. M. & Kaschak, M. P.. 2002. Grounding language in action. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 9. 558565.
Glenberg, A. M., Sato, M., Cattaneo, L., Riggio, L., Palumbo, D. & Buccino, G.. 2008. Processing abstract language modulates motor system activity. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 61. 905919.
Hino, Y. & Lupker, S. J.. 1996. Effects of polysemy in lexical decision and naming: An alternative to lexical access accounts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 22. 13311356.
Hino, Y., Lupker, S. J. & Pexman, P. M.. 2002. Ambiguity and synonymy effects in lexical decision, naming, and semantic categorization tasks: Interactions between orthography, phonology, and semantics. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 28. 686713.
ITP Nelson Canadian dictionary of the English language: An encyclopedic reference. 1997. Scarborough, ON: ITP Nelson.
Myung, J.-Y., Blumstein, S. E. & Sedivy, J. C.. 2006. Playing on the typewriter, typing on the piano: Manipulation knowledge of objects. Cognition 98. 223243.
Nelson, D. L., McEvoy, C. L. & Schreiber, T. A.. 1998. The University of South Florida word association, rhyme, and word fragment norms. Retrieved March 15, 2006, from
Plaut, D. C. & Shallice, T.. 1993. Deep dyslexia: A case study of connectionist neuropsychology. Cognitive Neuropsychology 10. 377500.
Schneider, W., Eschmann, A. & Zuccolotto, A.. 2002. E-Prime user's guide. Pittsburgh, PA: Psychology Software Tools, Inc.
Siakaluk, P. D., Pexman, P. M., Aguilera, L., Owen, W. J. & Sears, C. R.. 2008. Evidence for the activation of sensorimotor information during visual word recognition: The body-object interaction effect. Cognition 106. 433443.
Siakaluk, P. D., Pexman, P. M., Sears, C. R., Wilson, K., Locheed, K. & Owen, W. J.. 2008. The benefits of sensorimotor knowledge: Body-object interaction facilitates semantic processing. Cognitive Science 32. 591605.
Simmons, W. K. & Barsalou, L. W.. 2003. The similarity-in-topography principle: Reconciling theories of conceptual deficits. Cognitive Neuropsychology 20. 451486.
Strain, E., Patterson, K. & Seidenberg, M. S.. 1995. Semantic effects in single-word naming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 21. 11401154.
Tillotson, S. M., Siakaluk, P. D. & Pexman, P. M.. 2008. Body-object interaction ratings for 1,618 monosyllabic nouns. Behavior Research Methods 40. 10751078.
Ziegler, J. C., Stone, G. O. & Jacobs, A. M.. 1997. What's the pronunciation for –ough and the spelling for /u/? A database for computing feedforward and feedback inconsistency in English. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers 29. 600618.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed