Embodied Language: A Review of the Role of the Motor System in Language Comprehension

  title={Embodied Language: A Review of the Role of the Motor System in Language Comprehension},
  author={Martin H. Fischer and Rolf A. Zwaan},
  journal={Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology},
  pages={825 - 850}
A growing body of research suggests that comprehending verbal descriptions of actions relies on an internal simulation of the described action. To assess this motor resonance account of language comprehension, we first review recent developments in the literature on perception and action, with a view towards language processing. We then examine studies of language processing from an action simulation perspective. We conclude by discussing several criteria that might be helpful with regard to… 
Action in cognition: The case of language
Abstract Empirical research has shown that the processing of words and sentences is accompanied by activation of the brain's motor system in language users. The degree of precision observed in this
Cortical motor contributions to language understanding
There is considerable evidence that understanding language can involve parts of the authors' motor cortex, but this relation is best thought of as inherently flexible because the exact nature of the input as well as the intention with which language is perceived influences whether and how motor cortex plays a role in language processing.
Sentence comprehension affects the dynamics of bimanual coordination: Implications for embodied cognition
It is shown that the dynamics of the bimanual task differ when participants judge sentences describing performable actions as opposed to sentences describing events that are not performable.
Is Embodied Cognition Bilingual? Current Evidence and Perspectives of the Embodied Cognition Approach to Bilingual Language Processing
The available evidence on embodied effects in L2 is reviewed and their possible integration into existing models of linguistic processing in L1 and L2 are discussed.
Embodied Language Processing: A New Generation of Language Technology
This paper argues that embodied cognition dictates the development of a new generation of language processing tools that bridge the gap between the symbolic and the sensorimotor representation spaces and describes that tasks and challenges such tools need to address.
Mental simulation in language comprehension and social cognition
Current theories in social cognition and cognitive psychology conceptualize understanding of actions and of language describing actions as the performance of sensorimotor simulations. Although there


Seeing, acting, understanding: motor resonance in language comprehension.
In 5 experiments, the authors addressed 2 novel questions regarding language-based motor resonance regarding visual motion that is associated with an action and whether motor resonance is modulated during sentence comprehension.
Motor Representations In Memory And Mental Models: The Embodied Zork
It is shown that a representation of a visual stimulus accessed from memory can activate potential motor interactions and evidence that such representations, generated purely from linguistic descriptions, can also activate motor affordances is presented.
A unifying computational framework for motor control and social interaction.
  • D. Wolpert, K. Doya, M. Kawato
  • Psychology
    Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
  • 2003
The extent to which motor commands acting on the body can be equated with communicative signals acting on other people is examined and it is suggested that computational solutions for motor control may have been extended to the domain of social interaction.
Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the understanding and imitation of action
Evidence for the existence of a system, the 'mirror system', that seems to serve this mapping function in primates and humans is discussed, and its implications for the understanding and imitation of action are explored.
Processing Abstract Language Modulates Motor System Activity
There is greater modulation of activity in the hand muscles when reading sentences describing transfer of both concrete objects and abstract information, and this finding is discussed in relation to the human mirror neuron system.
Language-Induced Motor Perturbations during the Execution of a Reaching Movement
It is shown that the reaching movement can be disturbed by action words even when the words are presented delayed with respect to movement onset, and the results are compared to studies that show language–motor interaction in conditions where the word is presented prior to movements onset.
Temporal Dynamics of the Action–Sentence Compatibility Effect
The results show that the ACE occurs when the motor response is executed at an early point in the comprehension of the sentence, disappears for a time, and then reappears when the Motor Response is executed right before the end of the sentences.
Cross-talk between Language Processes and Overt Motor Behavior in the First 200 msec of Processing
Investigating the influence of processing action verbs and concrete nouns on the execution of a reaching movement provides unambiguous evidence that action words and motor action share common cortical representations and could thus suggest that cortical motor regions are indeed involved in action word retrieval.
Motor Resonance and Linguistic Focus
The present study replicates previous findings showing that verbal descriptions of actions activate compatible motor responses within a sentence, and motor resonance is found to yield to linguistic focus.
Sign Language Processing and the Mirror Neuron System