Poster D76, Monday, March 26, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Understanding “thunder” is more difficult than “rainbow” when performing a concurrent auditory task
Roisin Healy1, Jonathan Serino1, Charles P. Davis1,2, Gitte H. Joergensen1,2, Eiling Yee1,2; 1University of Connecticut, 2Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Sensorimotor-based theories of semantic memory suggest that a concept’s representation is encoded in the same parts of the brain that are involved in experiencing that concept. Thus, a concept experienced auditorily (e.g., thunder) should be partially encoded in auditory cortex. This raises the question: Does occupying a particular sensory modality with a task that is incompatible with concepts mainly experienced in that modality make it more difficult to think about those concepts? That is, would having to keep in mind a sequence of tones make it difficult to think about the concept “thunder”? We examined the effect of auditory interference on processing auditorily and non-auditorily experienced concepts (e.g., thunder and rainbow). In the interference condition, participants had to keep in mind a sequence of four simple tones (for a subsequent same/different judgment) while making a semantic decision on a visually presented word (e.g., thunder or rainbow). In the no-interference condition, participants performed the semantic decision with no concurrent auditory task. The interference effect was measured as the difference in response times to the words in the interference vs. the no-interference conditions. For auditorily experienced, but not non-auditorily experienced concepts (e.g., for thunder, but not for rainbow) we observed a correlation between accuracy on the tone task and the interference effect, such that greater accuracy was associated with a larger interference effect. This supports the idea that processing auditorily experienced concepts is more difficult when neural resources required for processing auditory information are otherwise occupied.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Semantic