Title

Attention to Body-Parts Varies With Visual Preference and Verb–Effector Associations

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-2017

Publication Title

Cognitive Processing

DOI

10.1007/s10339-017-0792-y

Abstract

Theories of embodied conceptual meaning suggest fundamental relations between others’ actions, language, and our own actions and visual attention processes. Prior studies have found that when people view an image of a neutral body in a scene they first look toward, in order, the head, torso, hands, and legs. Other studies show associations between action verbs and the body-effectors used in performing the action (e.g., “jump” with feet/legs; “talk” with face/head). In the present experiment, the visual attention of participants was recorded with a remote eye-tracking system while they viewed an image of an actor pantomiming an action and heard a concrete action verb. Participants manually responded whether or not the action image was a good example of the verb they heard. The eye-tracking results confirmed that participants looked at the head most, followed by the hands, and the feet least of all; however, visual attention to each of the body-parts also varied as a function of the effector associated with the spoken verb on image/verb congruent trials, particularly for verbs associated with the legs. Overall, these results suggest that language influences some perceptual processes; however, hearing auditory verbs did not alter the previously reported fundamental hierarchical sequence of directed attention, and fixations on specific body-effectors may not be essential for verb comprehension as peripheral visual cues may be sufficient to perform the task.