Asymmetrical Interference Effects between Two-Dimensional Geometric Shapes and Their Corresponding Shape Words

Bradley R. Sturz, Georgia Southern University
Joshua Edwards, Georgia Southern University
Ty W. Boyer, Georgia Southern University


Nativists have postulated fundamental geometric knowledge that predates linguistic and symbolic thought. Central to these claims is the proposal for an isolated cognitive system dedicated to processing geometric information. Testing such hypotheses presents challenges due to difficulties in eliminating the combination of geometric and non-geometric information through language. We present evidence using a modified matching interference paradigm that an incongruent shape word interferes with identifying a two-dimensional geometric shape, but an incongruent two-dimensional geometric shape does not interfere with identifying a shape word. This asymmetry in interference effects between two-dimensional geometric shapes and their corresponding shape words suggests that shape words activate spatial representations of shapes but shapes do not activate linguistic representations of shape words. These results appear consistent with hypotheses concerning a cognitive system dedicated to processing geometric information isolated from linguistic processing and provide evidence consistent with hypotheses concerning knowledge of geometric properties of space that predates linguistic and symbolic thought.