Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 1–13 | Cite as

Getting a grip on sensorimotor effects in lexical–semantic processing

  • Alison Heard
  • Christopher R. Madan
  • Andrea B. Protzner
  • Penny M. PexmanEmail author


One of the strategies that researchers have used to investigate the role of sensorimotor information in lexical–semantic processing is to examine the effects of words’ rated body–object interaction (BOI; i.e., the ease with which the human body can interact with a word’s referent). Processing tends to be facilitated for words with high as compared with low BOI, across a wide variety of tasks. Such effects have been referenced in debates over the nature of semantic representations, but their theoretical import has been limited by the fact that BOI is a fairly coarse measure of sensorimotor experience with words’ referents. In the present study, we collected ratings for 621 words on seven semantic dimensions (graspability, ease of pantomime, number of actions, animacy, size, danger, and usefulness), in order to investigate which attributes are most strongly related to BOI ratings and to lexical–semantic processing. BOI ratings were obtained from previous norming studies (Bennett, Burnett, Siakaluk, & Pexman in Behavior Research Methods, 43, 1100–1109, 2011; Tillotson, Siakaluk, & Pexman in Behavior Research Methods, 40, 1075–1078, 2008), and measures of lexical–semantic processing were obtained from previous behavioral megastudies involving either the semantic categorization task (concrete/abstract decision; Pexman, Heard, Lloyd, & Yap in Behavior Research Methods, 49, 407–417, 2017) or the lexical decision task (Balota et al., Behavior Research Methods, 39, 445–459, 2007). The results showed that the motor dimensions of graspability, ease of pantomime, and number of actions were all related to BOI, and that these dimensions together explained more variance in semantic processing than did the BOI ratings alone. These ratings will be useful for researchers who wish to study how different kinds of bodily interactions influence lexical–semantic processing and cognition.


Body-object interaction Semantic decision task Lexical decision task Motor ratings Visual word recognition 


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Heard
    • 1
  • Christopher R. Madan
    • 2
  • Andrea B. Protzner
    • 1
  • Penny M. Pexman
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Hotchkiss Brain InstituteUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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