The relationship of language, perception, and action has been the focus of recent studies exploring the representation of conceptual knowledge. A substantial literature has emerged, providing ample demonstrations of the intimate relationship between language and perception. The appropriate characterization of these interactions remains an important challenge. Recent evidence involving visual search tasks has led to the hypothesis that top-down input from linguistic representations may sharpen visual feature detectors, suggesting a direct influence of language on early visual perception. We present two experiments to explore this hypothesis. Experiment 1 demonstrates that the benefits of linguistic priming in visual search may arise from a reduction in the demands on working memory. Experiment 2 presents a situation in which visual search performance is disrupted by the automatic activation of irrelevant linguistic representations, a result consistent with the idea that linguistic and sensory representations interact at a late, response-selection stage of processing. These results raise a cautionary note: While language can influence performance on a visual search, the influence need not arise from a change in perception per se.
Keywords: language, perception, embodied cognition, working memory, visual search
Citation: Klemfuss N, Prinzmetal W and Ivry RB (2012) How does language change perception: a cautionary note. Front. Psychology 3:78. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00078
Received: 10 October 2011; Accepted: 01 March 2012;
Published online: 20 March 2012.
Edited by:Yury Y. Shtyrov, Medical Research Council, UK
Reviewed by:Gary Lupyan, University of Wisconsin Madison, USA
Copyright: © 2012 Klemfuss, Prinzmetal and Ivry. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.
*Correspondence: Richard B. Ivry, Department of Psychology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1650, USA. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org