Object Shape and Orientation Do Not Routinely Influence Performance During Language Processing

Joost Rommers* (Corresponding Author), Antje S. Meyer, Falk Huettig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The role of visual representations during language processing remains unclear: They could be activated as a necessary part of the comprehension process, or they could be less crucial and influence performance in a task-dependent manner. In the present experiments, participants read sentences about an object. The sentences implied that the object had a specific shape or orientation. They then either named a picture of that object (Experiments 1 and 3) or decided whether the object had been mentioned in the sentence (Experiment 2). Orientation information did not reliably influence performance in any of the experiments. Shape representations influenced performance most strongly when participants were asked to compare a sentence with a picture or when they were explicitly asked to use mental imagery while reading the sentences. Thus, in contrast to previous claims, implied visual information often does not contribute substantially to the comprehension process during normal reading.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2218-2225
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number11
Early online date24 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

We thank Ronald Fisher and John Nagengast for technical support, and we thank the research assistants of our lab for testing some of the participants and measuring speech onsets. We are grateful to Diane Pecher for providing the experimental materials and suggesting the Bayesian analyses, and we thank her and an anonymous reviewer for their comments.

Supplemental Material
Additional supporting material may be found at http://pss.sagepub.com/content/by/supplemental-data


  • psycholinguistics
  • language


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