Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Wiemer, Katja

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


The role of modal, or embodied, systems in the semantic representation of abstract concepts, which are by nature not experienced by the senses, remains unclear. The experiments presented in this dissertation investigated the extent to which the activation of visual or affective systems may be modulated by context. Experiment 1 examined whether a verbal or visual memory load interfered with the semantic processing of abstract concepts paired with either a low or highly imageable adjective, and whether processing was similarly affected for concrete concepts. While the cognitive loads were effectively maintained, neither load type affected processing times for either concept type. Overall abstract pairs were processed quicker, and both abstract and concrete concepts paired with a highly imageable adjective were processed slower. Experiment 2 investigated under what semantic processing conditions affective systems may be active, as indicated by response-compatibility effects. No valence response-compatibility effects were found across all tasks, including one requiring emotion-specific evaluation. The results are discussed in the context of embodied representation and methodological considerations for such research endeavors going forward.


131 pages




Northern Illinois University

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