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Matching Prime (force action): Mismatching Prime (force rest): Concrete Target (force action): PowerPoint Presentation
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Matching Prime (force action): Mismatching Prime (force rest): Concrete Target (force action):

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  1. Are Concrete and Abstract Sentences Understood in Terms of Underlying Force Patterns? Carol J. Madden and Diane Pecher - Erasmus University Rotterdam Abstract Two experiments test the idea that we understand concrete sentences like “The bulldozer pushed the dirt across the lot” and abstract sentences like “Jenny convinced her husband to confess” by representing their underlying force patterns and relating them to our own physical and psychosocial experiences. In the first experiment, abstract and concrete event descriptions were preceded by event descriptions with matching or mismatching patterns of forces. In the second experiment, abstract and concrete event descriptions were preceded by animations of events (two shapes interacting) with matching or mismatching patterns of forces. The results suggest that our understanding of concrete and abstract events incorporate their underlying force patterns (Talmy, 1988). These results also provide a possible account for how abstract sentences might be represented. Experiment 1 Participants made sensibility judgments on concrete and abstract sentences. These sentences were primed by concrete sentences that could have the same or different force patterns. Experiment 1 - Sentences of same force type facilitate subsequent abstract sentence comprehensionRT Errors Matching Prime (force action): The boy pulled on the rope to make the tower bell ring. Mismatching Prime (allow rest): The branches stopped swaying when the storm passed. Concrete Target (force action): The girl shot the basketball into the hoop. Abstract Target (force action): The boy confessed when his mother glared at him. or or Experiment 2 It is possible that structural similarity between prime and target sentences was responsible for the effect. Therefore, in Exp 2 participants again read sentences and made sensibility judgments, but sentences were now primed by shortanimations that could have the same or different force patterns. Experiment 2 - Animations of same force type facilitate subsequent abstract and concrete sentence comprehensionRT Errors Force Dynamics According to Talmy’s (1998) theory of force dynamics, events can be broken down into their component agents or entities and the interacting pattern of forces between them. In the current set of experiments, we are interested in events with the following 4 basic force patterns: Force Action – An agonist is predisposed to stay at rest, but a stronger antagonist forces action Force rest – An agonist is predisposed to act, but a stronger antagonist forces rest Allow Action – An agonist is predisposed to act, and a stronger, blocking antagonist is removed Allow rest – An agonist is predisposed to rest, and a stronger, action-forcing antagonist is removed Matching Prime (force action): Mismatching Prime (force rest): Concrete Target (force action): The girl shot the basketball into the hoop. Abstract Target (force action): The boy confessed when his mother glared at him. or or Conclusions Simulations of event descriptions may incorporate underlying force patterns (although not all sentences are event descriptions). This provides a possible account of how abstract sentences are represented. Psychosocial forces may be grounded in our experiences of physical forces. For both experiments, nonsense filler sentences requiring “no” responses were also presented… for example, “The farmer stopped harvesting when the pigs hammered the dresses.” This research was supported by a Vidi grant to Dr. Diane Pecher from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.