Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 154, Issue 1, pp 103–108 | Cite as

Grasping the meaning of words

  • Scott Glover
  • David A. Rosenbaum
  • Jeremy Graham
  • Peter Dixon
Research Note


Action affordances can be activated by non-target objects in the visual field as well as by word labels attached to target objects. These activations have been manifested in interference effects of distractors and words on actions. We examined whether affordances could be activated implicitly by words representing graspable objects that were either large (e.g., APPLE) or small (e.g., GRAPE) relative to the target. Subjects first read a word and then grasped a wooden block. Interference effects of the words arose in the early portions of the grasping movements. Specifically, early in the movement, reading a word representing a large object led to a larger grip aperture than reading a word representing a small object. This difference diminished as the hand approached the target, suggesting on-line correction of the semantic effect. The semantic effect and its on-line correction are discussed in the context of ecological theories of visual perception, the distinction between movement planning and control, and the proximity of language and motor planning systems in the human brain.


Grasping Planning Control Language Affordances Implicit 



This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, through a fellowship to SG and a grant to PD, as well as by NIH grant 1 R15 NS41887-01 to Jonathan Vaughan, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, for which the second author was a consultant.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott Glover
    • 1
    • 3
  • David A. Rosenbaum
    • 1
  • Jeremy Graham
    • 1
  • Peter Dixon
    • 2
  1. 1.Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.University of AlbertaCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyRoyal Holloway University of LondonEghamUK

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