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Grounding language in the neglected senses of touch, taste, and smell

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Publication details

JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
DateAccepted/In press - 20 May 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 23 Jun 2019
Number of pages30
Early online date23/06/19
Original languageEnglish


Grounded theories hold sensorimotor activation is critical to language processing. Such theories have focused predominantly on the dominant senses of sight and hearing. Relatively fewer studies have assessed mental simulation within touch, taste, and smell, even though they are critically implicated in communication for important domains, such as health and wellbeing. We review work that sheds light on whether perceptual activation from lesser studied modalities contribute to meaning in language. We critically evaluate data from behavioural, imaging, and cross-cultural studies. We conclude that evidence for sensorimotor simulation in touch, taste, and smell is weak. Comprehending language related to these senses may instead rely on simulation of emotion, as well as crossmodal simulation of the “higher” senses of vision and audition. Overall, the data suggest the need for a refinement of embodiment theories, as not all sensory modalities provide equally strong evidence for mental simulation.

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© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

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