Strategic and automatic components in the processing of linguistic spatial relations.

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The objective of the present study was to determine the extent to which strategies influence the representational format of a linguistic spatial relation. The propositional model assumes that a sentence describing a spatial relation is always represented as a set of propositions, whereas the strategic model claims that a spatial sentence can be represented either as a set of propositions or as a mental image, depending on the strategy (verbal or visual–spatial) an individual follows. Participants read a sentence (spatial or non-spatial) followed by a picture or sentence, which did or did not exemplify the information of the first sentence. In order to examine the involvement of strategic and automatic components the probability (20% or 80%) of the nature (sentence or picture) of the second stimulus was varied. Participants had slower verification RTs for unexpected stimuli than for expected stimuli, but this cost was significantly larger for an unexpected picture than an unexpected sentence. Furthermore, this asymmetric cost for the unexpected visual–spatial stimulus only occurred with spatial sentences and not with non-spatial sentences. Surprisingly, these data do not support a strictly propositional or a strategic model. Instead, we propose a third option: a dual representational model, in which people automatically represent the spatial sentence propositionally. In addition, depending on the context, a pictorial strategy is employed, which results in a supplementary visual–spatial representation.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalActa psychologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • IR-73312
  • METIS-225456

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