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View Full Version : Evidence for embodied meaning: the link between actions and words


ToddStark
September 27th, 2006, 01:27 PM
Source: ScienceDaily (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060918165419.htm) (based on a report in the Sept. 19 issue of Current Biology).

These researchers (lead by Lisa Aziz-Zadeh) are exploring the relationship between talk and action, and finding evidence for a closer relationship than is often assumed. Various linguists, such as George Lakoff, and some philosophers of "embodied mind" have theorized that human verbal thought is rooted in motor patterns. This study investigates some aspects that link, but also finds that metaphor and direct action statements differ in the degree to which they activate the motor aspects of the brain.

The brain's premotor cortex shows the same activity pattern when subjects observe an action as when they hear words describing the same action, the study's authors said.

"If you hear the word 'grasp,' it's actually the premotor cortex that's active, not just a separate, abstract semantic area in the brain," said lead investigator Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, assistant professor of occupational sciences with a joint appointment in the Brain and Creativity Institute of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The premotor cortex has long been identified as a center of activity for actions. The notion that it could also process verbal descriptions of those actions has met some resistance..

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"The study does demonstrate the intimate linkage between the way we talk about actions and the neural machinery that supports those actions. That's very intriguing," said USC University Professor Michael Arbib.

Arbib also noted the sharp difference between the subjects' responses to literal action statements (such as "biting the peach") and metaphorical actions ("biting off more than you can chew" or "kicking off").

"Metaphor seems not to activate the action areas as much as a direct action statement," he said, predicting that in future studies the premotor cortex will respond more strongly to novel images than to "frozen metaphors," otherwise known as clichés -- a finding unlikely to floor anyone, knock their socks off or cause their jaw to drop.

Fred H.
September 27th, 2006, 06:55 PM
"Metaphor seems not to activate the action areas as much as a direct action statement," he said, predicting that in future studies the premotor cortex will respond more strongly to novel images than to "frozen metaphors," otherwise known as clichés -- a finding unlikely to floor anyone, knock their socks off or cause their jaw to drop.
OK, maybe metaphor isn’t always the best thing since sliced bread, but to refer to it as “frozen,” I think, misses the mark. Let’s not sweep the power of metaphor under the rug, but rather let’s look at both sides of the coin here—in my mind’s eye, we often may not readily see the naked truth of things, and yet, thru metaphor, we may hit the nail on the head and that may help us see the light, or at least provide food for thought.