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Psychon Bull Rev. 2016 Aug;23(4):941-58. doi: 10.3758/s13423-016-1045-2.

Arguments about the nature of concepts: Symbols, embodiment, and beyond.

Mahon BZ1,2,3,4, Hickok G5.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester, Meliora Hall, Rochester, NY, 14627-0268, USA.
Department of Neurosurgery, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA.
Center for Visual Science, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA.
Center for Language Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA.
Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.


How are the meanings of words, events, and objects represented and organized in the brain? This question, perhaps more than any other in the field, probes some of the deepest and most foundational puzzles regarding the structure of the mind and brain. Accordingly, it has spawned a field of inquiry that is diverse and multidisciplinary, has led to the discovery of numerous empirical phenomena, and has spurred the development of a wide range of theoretical positions. This special issue brings together the most recent theoretical developments from the leaders in the field, representing a range of viewpoints on issues of fundamental significance to a theory of meaning representation. Here we introduce the special issue by way of pulling out some key themes that cut across the contributions that form this issue and situating those themes in the broader literature. The core issues around which research on conceptual representation can be organized are representational format, representational content, the organization of concepts in the brain, and the processing dynamics that govern interactions between the conceptual system and sensorimotor representations. We highlight areas in which consensus has formed; for those areas in which opinion is divided, we seek to clarify the relation of theory and evidence and to set in relief the bridging assumptions that undergird current discussions.


Actions and objects; Concept organization; Concept representation; Embodied cognition; Grounded cognition; Neural basis of concepts; Semantic categories; Symbols; Word meaning

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