Taken together, and considered in light of previous non-replications, the present study supports the absence of the object orientation effect, even though—arguably—the jury always remains out in psychological science. In my view, both original results and replications are subject to questioning, and it is only through the accumulation of consistent findings that we can increase our certainty. When non-replications accumulate and our certainty about an effect declines, it is time to consider why a theory is supported by certain operationalisations and only weakly supported (if at all) by other operationalisations. Examining the role of the operationalisation is a key step in the replication cycle, and I think this question will require more research over the coming decades. In the present thesis, we can compare two operationalisations of the embodied cognition theory. In Study 1, the object orientation effect has been used, which implements a factorial design. That is, the main independent variable is made up of categorical levels. Interestingly, the action-sentence compatibility effect—which could not be replicated recently (Morey et al., 2022)—also involves a factorial design. In contrast, in Study 2, we will use continuous variables capturing the degree of visual information associated with words (among other variables). Thus, one of the questions that should be examined in future research is whether the nature of the independent variables—e.g., categorical versus continuous—could account for the replication success. Insofar as continuous variables contain more information than categorical ones, the former type might offer more statistical power (Cohen, 1983; Petilli et al., 2021).

Furthermore, the study of S.-C. Chen et al. (2018) was pioneering as it investigated the object orientation effect across 18 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Polish, Simplified Chinese and Turkish. The breadth of crosslinguistic variation deployed in this study constitutes a very novel contribution to the topic of conceptual processing. Precisely the scarcity of precedents makes such a crosslinguistic investigation challenging nowadays. Thus, we could now consider some desirable characteristics for future studies, such as the need to reach sufficient sample sizes in all languages. Determining a sufficient sample size will require a conservative power analysis that should itself be based on a sufficient amount of reliable data (Albers & Lakens, 2018). Furthermore, to prevent the misinterpretation of crosslinguistic differences, all languages should have the same sample size.

Last, for the longer term, it would be desirable to work towards a theory of crosslinguistic variation in conceptual processing, which would help in the design of studies and in the interpretation of any crosslinguistic differences. This goal will require research on the lexicosemantic and syntactic differences across languages that are relevant to the effect of interest in conceptual processing (in this case, the object orientation effect). In S.-C. Chen et al. (2018), we outlined some typological differences across some of the languages examined; specifically, differences in the lexical encoding of motion (Verkerk, 2014) and in the encoding of placement (Newman, 2002). While this was hopefully a move in the right direction, I think that future empirical work with a crosslinguistic aspiration would necessitate further typological theory. This is very much uncharted territory in the topic of conceptual processing, so it is exciting but also uncertain. To help chart the course, the topic area of linguistic relativity is likely to contain useful resources and examples. For instance, Bernabeu and Tillman (2019) suggested that a novel typological classification of motion (Verkerk, 2014) could be useful for the design of studies in linguistic relativity. Specifically, Verkerk (2014) created a numeric rating for the degree to which 20 Indo-European languages adhered to the pattern of satellite-framing and verb-framing. This represented a major step beyond the dichotomic division between the two satellite and verb framing. Indeed, Verkerk put numbers to the nuances holding across 20 languages. Bernabeu and Tillman suggested the use of Verkerk’s classification in the organisation of linguistic relativity studies. Arguably, the kind of theoretical and methodological instruments that are available for investigating lingusitic relativity will also be necessary for the crosslinguistic study of conceptual processing. In conclusion, incorporating a crosslinguistic strand to the study of conceptual processing might lead us to realising the role of language-specific patterns, now that we have realised the role of the semantic context and of participants’ individual differences (both aspects addressed in the next chapter).

Three of the topics discussed in this chapter constitute key elements of the next chapter, which will describe Study 2. The first of these topics is the role of sensorimotor simulation in conceptual processing. The second topic is the role of individual differences. The third topic is the importance of statistical power. In addition to these topics, Study 2 will also incorporate the language system to the study of conceptual processing. Whereas sensorimotor simulation is characterised by detailed representations that tend to be linked to physical experience, language is characterised by abstract associations across networks of words. Research has suggested that language and simulation are compatible and complementary (Banks et al., 2021; Kiela & Bottou, 2014; Lam et al., 2015; Louwerse et al., 2015; Pecher et al., 1998; Petilli et al., 2021).


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Pablo Bernabeu, 2022. Licence: CC BY 4.0.
Thesis: https://doi.org/10.17635/lancaster/thesis/1795.

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