Memory & Cognition

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 100–116 | Cite as

Perceptual and semantic sources of category-specific effects: Event-related potentials during picture and word categorization



In two experiments the effect of object category on event-related potentials (ERPs) was assessed while subjects performed superordinate categorizations with pictures and words referring to objects from natural (e.g., animal) and artifactual (e.g., tool) categories. First, a category probe was shown that was presented as name in Experiment 1 and as picture in Experiment 2. Thereafter, the target stimulus was displayed. In both experiments, analyses of the ERPs to the targets revealed effects of category at about 160 msec after target onset in the pictorial modality, which can be attributed to categoryspecific differences in perceptual processing. Later, between about 300-500 msec, natural and artifactual categories elicited similar ERP effects across target and category modalities. These findings suggest that perceptual as well as semantic sources contribute to category-specific effects. They support the view that semantic knowledge associated with different categories is represented in multiple subsystems that are similarly accessed by pictures and words.


  1. Bajo, M. T. (1988). Semantic facilitation with pictures and words.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,14, 579–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bertrand, O., Perrin, F., &Pernier, J. A. (1985). A theoretical justification of the average reference in topographic evoked potential studies.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,62, 462–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Caramazza, A., &Shelton, J. R. (1998). Domain-specific knowledge systems in the brain: The animate-inanimate distinction.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,10, 1–34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Corbeil, J. C., &Archambault, A. (1994).The Macmillan visual dictionary: Multilingual edition. Montreal: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  5. Damasio, H., Grabowski, T. J., Tranel, D., Hichwa, R. D., &Damasio, A. R. (1996). A neural basis for lexical retrieval.Nature,380, 499–505.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dehaene, S. (1995). Electrophysiological evidence for categoryspecific word processing in the normal human brain.NeuroReport,6, 2153–2157.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. De Renzi, E., &Lucchelli, F. (1994). Are semantic systems separately represented in the brain? The case of living category impairment.Cortex,30, 3–25.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Devlin, J. T., Gonnerman, L. M., Andersen, E. S., &Seidenberg, M. S. (1998). Category-specific semantic deficits in focal and widespread brain damage: A computational account.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,10, 77–94.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Farah, M. J., &McClelland, J. L. (1991). A computational model of semantic memory impairment: Modality specificity and emergent category specificity.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,120, 339–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Farah, M. J., McMullen, P. A., &Meyer, M. M. (1991). Can recognition of living things be selectively impaired?Neuropsychologia,29, 185–193.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Flores d’Arcais, G. B., Schreuder, R., &Glazenborg, G. (1985). Semantic activation during recognition of referential words.Psychological Research,47, 39–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Funnell, E., &Sheridan, J. (1992). Categories of knowledge? Unfamiliar aspects of living and nonliving things.Cognitive Neuropsychology,9, 135–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Humphreys, G. W., &Riddoch, M. J. (1987). On telling your fruit from your vegetable: A consideration of category-specific deficits after brain damage.Trends in Neurosciences,10, 145–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Humphreys, G. W., Riddoch, M. J., &Quinlan, P. T. (1988). Cascade processes in picture identification.Cognitive Neuropsychology,5, 67–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jolicoeur, P., Gluck, M., &Kosslyn, S. (1984). Picture and names: Making the connection.Cognitive Psychology,16, 243–275.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kiefer, M., Weisbrod, M., Kern, I., Maier, S., &Spitzer, M. (1998). Right hemisphere activation during indirect semantic priming: Evidence from event-related potentials.Brain & Language,64, 377–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kounios, J., &Holcomb, P. J. (1994). Concreteness effects in semantic processing: ERP evidence supporting dual coding theory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,20, 804–823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kurbat, M. A. (1997). Can the recognition of living things really be selectively impaired?Neuropsychologia,35, 813–827.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kutas, M., &Hillyard, S. A. (1980). Reading senseless sentences: Brain potentials reflect semantic incongruity.Science,207, 203–205.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kutas, M., &Hillyard, S. A. (1983). Event-related potentials to grammatical errors and semantic anomalies.Memory & Cognition,11, 539–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kutas, M., &Van Petten, C. K. (1994). Psycholinguistics electrified. In M. A. Gernsbacher (Ed.),Handbook of psycholinguistics (pp. 83–143). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  22. Lloyd-Jones, T. J., &Humphreys, G. W. (1997a). Categorizing chairs and naming pears: Category differences in object processing as a function of task and priming.Memory & Cognition,25, 606–624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lloyd-Jones, T. J., &Humphreys, G. W. (1997b). Perceptual differentiation as a source of category effects in object processing: Evidence from naming and object decision.Memory & Cognition,25, 18–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mangun, G. R., &Hillyard, S. A. (1991). Modulation of sensoryevoked brain potentials provide evidence for changes in perceptual processing during visual-spatial priming.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,17, 1057–1074.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Martin, A., Wiggs, C. L., Ungerleider, L. G., &Haxby, J. V. (1996). Neural correlates of category-specific knowledge.Nature,379, 649–652.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nunez, P. L. (1981).Electrical fields of the brain: The neurophysics of EEG. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Oldfield, R. (1971). The assessment and analysis of handedness: The Edinburgh Inventory.Neuropsychologia,9, 97–113.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Parkin, A. J., &Stewart, F. (1993). Category-specific impairments? No. A critique of Sartori et al.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,46A, 505–509.Google Scholar
  29. Potter, M. C., &Faulconer, B. A. (1975). Time to understand pictures and words.Nature,253, 437–438.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Price, C. J., &Humphreys, G. W. (1989). The effects of surface detail on object categorization and naming.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,41A, 797–828.Google Scholar
  31. Pulvermüller, F. (1999). Words in the brain’s language.Behavioral & Brain Sciences,22, 253–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pulvermüller, F., Preissl, H., Lutzenberger, W., &Birbaumer, N. (1996). Brain rhythms of language: Nouns vs. verbs.European Journal of Neuroscience,8, 937–941.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rugg, M. D., &Coles, M. G. H. (Eds.) (1995).Electrophysiology of mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Ruoff, A. (1990).Häufigkeitswörterbuch gesprochener Sprache (2nd ed.). Tübingen: Niemeyer.Google Scholar
  35. Sacchett, C., &Humphreys, G. W. (1992). Calling a squirrel a squirrel but a canoe a wigwam: A category-specific deficit for artefactual objects and body parts.Cognitive Neuropsychology,9, 73–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sheridan, J., &Humphreys, G. W. (1993). A verbal-semantic categoryspecific recognition impairment.Cognitive Neuropsychology,10, 143–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Snodgrass, J. G., &Vanderwart, M. (1980). Standardized set of 260 pictures: Norms of name agreement, usage agreement, familiarity and visual complexity.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning & Memory,6, 174–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Snyder, A. Z., Abdullaev, Y. G., Posner, M. I., &Raichle, M. E. (1995). Scalp electrical potentials reflect regional blood flow responses during processing of written words.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,92, 1689–1693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Spitzer, M. (1998).The mind within the net: Models of learning, thinking and acting. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press..Google Scholar
  40. Spitzer, M., Kwong, K. K., Kennedy, W., Rosen, B. R., &Belliveau, J. W. (1995). Category-specific brain activation in fMRI during picture naming.NeuroReport,6, 2109–2112.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tanaka, J. W., Luu, P., Weisbrod, M., &Kiefer, M. (1999). Tracking the time course of object categorization using event-related potentials.NeuroReport,10, 829–835.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tanaka, J. W., &Presnell, L. M. (1999). Color diagnosticity and object recognition.Perception & Psychophysics,61, 1140–1153.Google Scholar
  43. Thompson-Schill, S. L., Aguirre, G. K., D’Esposito, M. D., &Farah, M. J. (1999). A neural basis for category and modality specificity of semantic knowledge.Neuropsychologia,37, 671–676.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Thorpe, S., Fize, D., &Marlot, C. (1996). Speed of processing in the human visual system.Nature,381, 520–521.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tranel, D., Damasio, H., &Damasio, A. R. (1997). A neural basis for the retrieval of conceptual knowledge.Neuropsychologia,35, 1319–1327.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tranel, D., Logan, C. G., Frank, R. J., &Damasio, A. R. (1997). Explaining category-related effects in the retrieval of conceptual and lexical knowledge for concrete entities: Operationalization and analysis of factors.Neuropsychologia,35, 1329–1339.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tucker, D. M. (1993). Spatial sampling of head electrical fields: The geodesic sensor net.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,87, 154–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Vitkovitch, M., Humphreys, G. W., &Lloyd-Jones, T. J. (1993). On naming a giraffe a zebra: Picture naming errors across different object categories.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,19, 243–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Warrington, E. K., &McCarthy, R. (1987). Categories of knowledge.Brain,110, 1273–1296.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Warrington, E. K., &Shallice, T. (1984). Category specific semantic impairments.Brain,107, 829–854.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of UlmUlmGermany

Personalised recommendations