New Research From Psychological Science

A Functional Role for the Motor System in Language Understanding: Evidence From Theta-Burst Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Roel M. Willems, Ludovica Labruna, Mark D’Esposito, Richard Ivry, and Daniel Casasanto

Previous studies have revealed that motor areas of the brain can be activated when people read or listen to action words. To determine whether motor areas are necessary for language comprehension, researchers used theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation to stimulate an area in either the left or the right premotor cortex. Right-handed participants’ responses to manual-action verbs (such as “to throw” or “to write”) were faster after simulation of the left premotor cortex than after stimulation of the right premotor cortex, indicating that the left premotor cortex may play a role in language understanding.

Probing the Mechanisms Behind the Suspicious-Coincidence Effect

John P. Spencer, Sammy Perone, Linda B. Smith, and Larissa K. Samuelson

When people learn words, they will categorize them too. But how does the human mind determine which category a word belongs in? Researchers investigated the mechanism behind the “suspicious coincidence” effect, in which people tend to consider a narrow range of categories when they are presented with multiple similar items and consider a broad range of categories when they are presented with a single item. In three experiments, volunteers were asked to categorize different combinations of objects (such as vegetables), and it was found that individuals would only consider a narrow range of categories if multiple objects were presented simultaneously. This suggests that the mechanism behind the suspicious-coincidence effect is driven by processes associated with memory and attention.

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