Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 408–419 | Cite as

Situated conceptualization and semantic processing: effects of emotional experience and context availability in semantic categorization and naming tasks

  • Michael Moffat
  • Paul D. Siakaluk
  • David M. Sidhu
  • Penny M. Pexman
Brief Report


It has been proposed that much of conceptual knowledge is acquired through situated conceptualization, such that both external (e.g., agents, objects, events) and internal (e.g., emotions, introspections) environments are considered important (Barsalou, 2003). To evaluate this proposal, we characterized two dimensions by which situated conceptualization may be measured and which should have different relevance for abstract and concrete concepts; namely, emotional experience (i.e., the ease with which words evoke emotional experience; Newcombe, Campbell, Siakaluk, & Pexman, 2012) and context availability (i.e., the ease with which words evoke contexts in which their referents may appear; Schwanenflugel & Shoben, 1983). We examined the effects of these two dimensions on abstract and concrete word processing in verbal semantic categorization (VSCT) and naming tasks. In the VSCT, emotional experience facilitated processing of abstract words but inhibited processing of concrete words, whereas context availability facilitated processing of both types of words. In the naming task in which abstract words and concrete words were not blocked by emotional experience, context availability facilitated responding to only the abstract words. In the naming task in which abstract words and concrete words were blocked by emotional experience, emotional experience facilitated responding to only the abstract words, whereas context availability facilitated responding to only the concrete words. These results were observed even with several lexical (e.g., frequency, age of acquisition) and semantic (e.g., concreteness, arousal, valence) variables included in the analyses. As such, the present research suggests that emotional experience and context availability tap into different aspects of situated conceptualization and make unique contributions to the representation and processing of abstract and concrete concepts.


Grounded cognition Semantic memory Emotional experience Context availability 


Author Note

This research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada in the form of Discovery Grants to PDS and PMP and a Canada Graduate Scholarship to DMS.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Moffat
    • 1
  • Paul D. Siakaluk
    • 1
  • David M. Sidhu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Penny M. Pexman
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada
  2. 2.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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