Cognitive psychology 3

[5 abstracts]

1. Spatial Opposites  [presentation, ppt, 1843 kB]
Bianchi I., Savardi U., Kubovy M.
First author's affiliation: Department of Educational Sciences, Macerata, Italy

We investigated the structure of 37 spatial dimensions of opposite properties, such as open-closed, vertical-horizontal, full-empty, and far-near. The structure of each dimension was defined by means of phenomenological psychophysics. Metrical and topological definitions of the three components of the dimensions (the two poles and the intermediate states) were derived and similarities and differences between these dimensions were identified. These studies revealed that the proportional extension of the two poles and the intermediates can be defined by participants with high accuracy. These metrical definitions are further enriched if topological aspects identifying the nature of poles and intermediates are considered, i.e. if a distinction is made either between points and ranges or between open and closed ranges. Four types of opposites emerged as a result of these analyses: (i) closed range, point, closed range (cpc), e.g. left-right; (ii) point, range, point (prp), e.g. full-empty; (iii) open range, none, point (onp), e.g. open-closed; (iv) open range, range, closed range (orc), e.g. high-low. We believe that this approach may be extended to the study of the perceptual structure of opposites in any domain. Further research would reveal whether the four structures which emerged from the studies on spatial opposites are typical only of spatial dimensions or may have a more general application in various perceptual domains. We suggest that this type of investigation is a fruitful addition to both semantic and linguistic approaches to opposition.

2. Is the logical equivalence between conditional and disjunction also a psychological equivalence?  
Manfrinati A., Tasso A., Cherubini P., Giaretta P., Altoè G.
First author's affiliation: University of Valle d'Aosta, Venezia, Italy

One of the main problems that a theory of conditionals has to deal with is that some conditionals are well understood by people in everyday reasoning, even if they seem partially undefined as they lack truth value when the antecedent is false. The aim of this study was to investigate the following hypothesis: explicit disjunctive information affects the extent to which related conditionals are perceived as defined in different situations. Participants (N=39) evaluated meaning equivalence of conditional and disjunctive sentences using a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (different meaning) to 5 (same meaning). The independent variables were: type of conditional (conditional vs. biconditional); content (concrete vs. abstract); order of presentation (disjunction first vs. conditional first); polarity (conditional with a negated antecedent vs. disjunction with a negated term). Statistical analysis showed that equivalence evaluation is affected by content (p < .001), polarity (p < .001) and, more interestingly, by order of presentation (p = .026) - a disjunction seems to involve a conditional but not vice versa. This study provides evidence for the idea that mental representation (or mental model) of the disjunction could make it easier to form the mental representation (or mental model) of the conditional.

3. To drag, to push, to give a push: Sensory-motor structures in the mental images of three causal verbs  [presentation, ppt, 1439 kB]
Schepis A., Zuczkowski A., Biassoni F., Karp N., Bianchi I.
First author's affiliation: Università degli studi di Macerata, Macerata, Italy

The leading hypothesis of the present contribution is that the mental image activated by a linguistic signifier - in particular, the causal verbs to drag, to push, and to give a push, studied in their perceptual structure by Michotte - are referable to underlying schemata grounded in perceptual experience. The Gestaltist approach of Michotte with particular reference to his hypotheses of the prefiguration and derivation of the semantic structures from the perceptual ones is conjugated here with more recent contributions coming from other fields (Jackendoff 1997, Talmy 2000, Barsalou 2003, Langacker 2004). Three methodologically analogous studies (one for each verb) have been conducted, each one divided into two phases. In the first phase, 2 groups of 5 subjects described and drew the mental image activated by the verb under examination. Among different representations, the common structural characteristics were individuated and constituted the base for the formulation of a questionnaire specific for the given verb. In the second phase, a wide sample of subjects was asked to produce a mental image related to the verb, to describe and to draw it, and to answer the questionnaire. The data analysis was either qualitative (descriptions and drawings) and quantitative (questionnaire’s answers). The results confirmed the existence of structural invariant characteristics comparable among the three verbs, concerning in particular topological (reciprocal position, contact, plane), kinetic (speed, direction, nature of the motion), dimensional (size, weight) and kinesthetic features (resistance, friction, effort). The theoretical and practical implications concern the intensional and extensional representation of meaning.

4. Connotative meaning of abstract visual patterns and pseudowords  
Janković D.
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia

Meaning of concepts is mostly composed of denotative (objective) and connotative (subjective) semantic features. In previous studies we established the factorial structure of connotative meaning for concepts and suggested a parsimonious instrument named connotative differential. In the present study, we tried to specify the basic connotative meaning structure of stimuli without conventional meaning and stimuli from two different modalities: visual and verbal (i.e. abstract visual gestalt and nonsense verbal material - pseudowords). In experiment 1, subjects (N=82) were asked to evaluate abstract visual patterns on 35 bipolar scales (adjectives with opposite meaning defined the poles of scales). The selection of scales for the instrument was based on the previous studies. The stimuli were constructed in order to cover a wide spectrum of visual gestalten. The principal component analysis using promax rotation method was performed for all abstract visual patterns in order to establish invariant factorial structure, independent of evaluated content. The results showed that scales converge in three main factors: evaluative, cognitive, and conative. In experiment 2, the same group of subjects evaluated 32 pseudowords using the same instrument. Principal component analysis showed the same triple factorial structure as in experiment 1. Obtained results are compatible with the previous results on concepts and confirm robust structure and cross-modal nature of connotative meaning.

5. Symbolization and plastic representation of emotions  
Kovačev A. N.
University of Ljubljana, Health Faculty, Ljubljana, Slovenia

The aim of the present study was to ascertain the main characteristics of the plastic representation of emotions. Subjects had to experience four primary emotions (joy, sorrow, anger, and fear) with the help of autosuggestion. Then they had to draw them with fibre pen. Their drawings had to be abstract. The only available means of self-expression were: colours, lines, and dots. Drawings were analysed with the help of a list of plastic elements and the main characteristics of the whole. The list was prepared in advance. The analysis showed that the symbolization of emotions was strongly determined by their conceptualization and that their experiencing was not crucial. In spite of the successive drawing of four emotions there were no interferences among them. The hypothesis of the independence of the use of plastic elements of emotions was tested with the chi2-test. It was found out, that colours differentiated between emotions more significantly than lines. The basic characteristics of the symbolization of each primary emotion were identified. There were a lot of similarities between the plastic representations of the same emotion drawn by different subjects. These were clearly seen from the use of plastic elements, structural characteristics of the completed representations and the added schemes.