Remembering spatial words: Sensorimotor simulation affects verbal recognition memory

Alper Kumcu*, Robin L. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Downloads (Pure)


Previous evidence shows that words with implicit spatial meaning or metaphorical spatial associations are perceptually simulated and can guide attention to associated locations (e.g., bird – upward location). In turn, simulated representations interfere with visual perception at an associated location. The present study investigates the effect of spatial associations on short-term verbal recognition memory to disambiguate between modal and amodal accounts of spatial interference effects across two experiments. Participants in both experiments encoded words presented in congruent and incongruent locations. Congruent and incongruent locations were based on an independent norming task. In Experiment 1, an auditorily presented word probed participants’ memory as they were visually cued to either the original location of the probe word or a diagonal location at retrieval. In Experiment 2, there was no cue at retrieval but a neutral encoding condition in which words normed to central locations were shown. Results show that spatial associations affected memory performance although spatial information was neither relevant nor necessary for successful retrieval: Words in Experiment 1 were retrieved more accurately when there was a visual cue in the congruent location at retrieval but only if they were encoded in a non-canonical position. A visual cue in the congruent location slowed down memory performance when retrieving highly imageable words. With no cue at retrieval (Experiment 2), participants were better at remembering spatially congruent words as opposed to neutral words. Results provide evidence in support of sensorimotor simulation in verbal memory and a perceptual competition account of spatial interference effect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1694 - 1710
Number of pages17
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number9
Early online date27 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Experimental Psychology Society 2021.


  • Sensorimotor simulation
  • compatibility effect
  • conceptual cueing
  • grounded-embodied cognition
  • recognition memory
  • spatial interference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Remembering spatial words: Sensorimotor simulation affects verbal recognition memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this