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Cognition. 2019 Aug;189:105-115. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2019.03.017. Epub 2019 Mar 30.

There's more to "sparkle" than meets the eye: Knowledge of vision and light verbs among congenitally blind and sighted individuals.

Author information

1
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States; Johns Hopkins University, United States. Electronic address: Marina.bedny@jhu.edu.
2
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States.
3
Johns Hopkins University, United States.
4
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States; Johns Hopkins University, United States.

Abstract

We examined the contribution of first-person sensory experience to concepts by comparing the meanings of perception (visual/tactile) and emission (light/sound) verbs among congenitally blind (N = 25) and sighted speakers (N = 22). Participants judged semantic similarity for pairs of verbs referring to events of visual (e.g. to peek), tactile (e.g. to feel) and amodal perception (e.g. to perceive) as well as light (e.g. to shimmer) and sound (e.g. to boom) emission and manner of motion (to roll) (total word pairs, N = 2041). Relative to the sighted, blind speakers had higher agreement among themselves on touch perception and sound emission verbs. However, for visual verbs, the judgments of blind and sighted participants were indistinguishable, both in the semantic criteria used and subject-wise variability. Blind and sighted individuals alike differentiate visual perception verbs from verbs of touch and amodal perception and differentiate among acts of visual perception e.g. intense/continuous from brief acts of looking (e.g. peek vs. stare). Light emission verbs are differentiated according to intensity (blaze vs. glow) and stability (blaze vs. flash). Thus detailed knowledge of visual word meanings is acquired without first-person sensory access.

KEYWORDS:

Blindness; Concept; Experience; Semantic; Semantic similarity space; Verb meaning

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