speak with your hands? You might also think about them

When asked which word represented the biggest thing, participants answered faster when their hands were free (left) than when the hands were tied (right). Handstrain also reduced brain activity when processing words for objects that could be manually manipulated in the left brain regions associated with the tools. Credit: Makioka, Osaka Metropolitan University

How do we understand the words? Scientists don’t fully understand what happens when a word pops into your brain. A research group led by Professor Shugo Makioka at Osaka Metropolitan University’s Graduate School of Sustainable System Sciences wanted to test the idea of ​​embodied cognition. Embodied cognition suggests that people understand the words for objects by how they interact with them, so the researchers devised a test to monitor the semantic processing of words when the ways participants can interact with the objects are limited.

Words are expressed in relation to other words; A ‘cup’, for example, could be ‘a vessel made of glass, used for drinking’. However, you can use the cup only if you understand that drinking from a glass of water, you hold it in your hand and bring it to your mouth, or if you drop the cup, it will shatter on the floor. Without understanding this, it would be difficult to create a robot that can handle a real teacup. in artificial intelligence researchThese problems are known as symbol grounding problems, which map symbols to the real world.

How do humans achieve symbol grounding? Cognitive psychology and Cognitive sciences Suggesting the concept of embodied cognition, whereby things are given meaning through interactions with the body and the environment.

To test embodied cognition, the researchers conducted experiments to see how participants’ brains responded to words describing things that could be manipulated by hand, when participants’ hands could move freely compared to when they were tied.

“It was very difficult to create a method for measurement and analysis brain activity. Professor Makioka explained that the first author, Mrs. Sai Onishi, worked persistently to come up with a task, in a way that would enable us to measure brain activity with sufficient accuracy.

In the experiment, two words such as “cup” and “broom” were presented to the participants on the screen. They were asked to compare the relative sizes of the objects those words represented and to verbally answer which object was larger – in this case, a “broom”. Comparisons were made between the words, which describe two types of things, things that can be manually controlled, such as “cup” or “broom” and things that are not manipulable, such as “building” or “lamppost”, to observe how each type is treated.

During the tests, participants placed their hands on a desk, where they were either free or bound to a transparent acrylic plate. When the two words were shown on a screen, to answer which one represented a larger object, the participants needed to think about both shapes and compare their sizes, forcing them to process the meaning of each word.

Brain activity was measured using infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which has the advantage of taking measurements without imposing more physical limitations. Measurements focused on the sulcus between the parietal and inferior parietal lobule (supramarginal gyrus and the angular gyrus) of the left brain, which are responsible for instrumental semantic processing. Verbal response speed was measured to determine how quickly the participant answered after the words appeared on the screen.

The results showed that the activity of the left brain In response to objects that can be manipulated manually, it has been greatly reduced by hand restraints. Verbal responses were also affected by hand restraints. These results suggest that hand movement restriction affects object meaning processing, supporting the idea of ​​embodied cognition. These findings suggest that the idea of ​​embodied cognition can also be effective Artificial intelligence To know the meaning of things. The paper was published in Scientific Reports.

What you know changes how you see things

more information:
Sae Onishi et al, Hand restriction reduces brain activity and affects the speed of verbal responses in semantic tasks, Scientific Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-022-17702-1

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