We tested an embodied account of language proposing that comprehenders create perceptual simulations of the events they hear and read about. In Experiment 1, children (ages 7-13. years) performed a picture verification task. Each picture was preceded by a prerecorded spoken sentence describing an entity whose shape or orientation matched or mismatched the depicted object. Responses were faster for matching pictures, suggesting that participants had formed perceptual-like situation models of the sentences. The advantage for matching pictures did not increase with age. Experiment 2 extended these findings to the domain of written language. Participants (ages 7-10. years) of high and low word reading ability verified pictures after reading sentences aloud. The results suggest that even when reading is effortful, children construct a perceptual simulation of the described events. We propose that perceptual simulation plays a more central role in developing language comprehension than was previously thought.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2011.06.009, hdl.handle.net/1765/30912
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Engelen, J., Bouwmeester, S., de Bruin, A., & Zwaan, R. (2011). Perceptual simulation in developing language comprehension. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 110(4), 659–675. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2011.06.009