Lawrence W. Barsalou, Department of Psychology, Emery University

Lawrence W. Barsalou, Department of Psychology, Emery University



The conceptual system in the brain contains categorical knowledge that supports online processing (perception, categorization, inference, action) and offline processing (memory, language, thought).  Semantic memory, the dominant theory of the conceptual system, typically portrays it as modular and amodal.  According to this approach, amodal symbols represent category knowledge in a modular system, separate from the brain's modal systems for perception, action, and introspection (e.g., affect, mental states).  Alternatively, the conceptual system can be viewed as non-modular and modal, sharing representational mechanisms with the brain's modal systems.  On a given occasion, multimodal information about a category's members is reenacted (simulated) across relevant modalities to represent it conceptually.  Behavioral and neural evidence is presented showing that modal simulations contribute to the representation of object categories and abstract categories, and to the symbolic operations of predication and conceptual combination.  Further evidence demonstrates that these simulations are situated, containing information about background situations central to goal-directed action.  Evidence also shows that language as well as simulation plays central roles in conceptual processing

Link to Paper:

Simulation, situated conceptualization, and prediction