Abstract Mental states—such as thinking, remembering, or feeling angry, happy, or dizzy—have a clear internal component. We feel a certain way when we are in these states. These internal experiences may be simulated when people understand conceptual references to mental states. However, mental states can also be described from an “external” perspective, for example when referring to “smiling.” In those cases, simulation of visible outside features may be more relevant for understanding. In a switching costs paradigm, we presented semantically unrelated sentences describing emotional and nonemotional mental states while manipulating their internal or external focus. The results show that switching costs occur when participants shift between sentences with an internal and an external focus. This suggests that different forms of simulation underlie understanding these sentences. In addition, these effects occurred for emotional and nonemotional mental states, suggesting that they are grounded in a similar way—through the process of simulation.

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Keywords Abstract concepts, Affect, Embodied cognition, Emotion, Introspection, Language, Mental states, Simulation
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13421-011-0134-8, hdl.handle.net/1765/30612
Journal Memory and Cognition
Oosterwijk, S, Winkielman, P, Pecher, D, Zeelenberg, R, Rotteveel, M, & Fischer, A.H. (2011). Mental states inside out: Switching costs for emotional and non-emotional sentences that differ in internal and external focus.. Memory and Cognition. doi:10.3758/s13421-011-0134-8