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Psychon Bull Rev. 2016 Aug;23(4):1028-34. doi: 10.3758/s13423-015-0864-x.

Situation models, mental simulations, and abstract concepts in discourse comprehension.

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Department of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 3000 DR, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


This article sets out to examine the role of symbolic and sensorimotor representations in discourse comprehension. It starts out with a review of the literature on situation models, showing how mental representations are constrained by linguistic and situational factors. These ideas are then extended to more explicitly include sensorimotor representations. Following Zwaan and Madden (2005), the author argues that sensorimotor and symbolic representations mutually constrain each other in discourse comprehension. These ideas are then developed further to propose two roles for abstract concepts in discourse comprehension. It is argued that they serve as pointers in memory, used (1) cataphorically to integrate upcoming information into a sensorimotor simulation, or (2) anaphorically integrate previously presented information into a sensorimotor simulation. In either case, the sensorimotor representation is a specific instantiation of the abstract concept.


Abstract concepts; Embodied cognition; Language comprehension; Language/memory interactions; Mental models

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