Are Human Bodies Represented Differently from Other Objects? Experience Shapes Object Representations

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Psychology (CMC)

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This study investigated the cognitive organization of the human body representation and its relationship to other object representations. It addressed whether (1) all objects and their parts were organized similarly, (2) animate objects and their parts were organized differently from inanimate objects and their parts, and (3) the human body was organized differently from all other objects. The relations among the parts of three exemplar objects (human body, bear, and bicycle) were examined. Participants performed a series of sorting tasks using stimulus cards illustrating various part and part combinations of these objects; the cards were constructed so that the same strategies could be used to categorize all three objects. Dissimilarity data were analysed using multidimensional scaling techniques. Results indicated that the human body was organized differently from the other objects, and that categorization did not follow the animate–inanimate distinction. Although animate objects were represented more on their visual characteristics and inanimate objects were represented more on functional characteristics, the human body was represented on its ability to perform actions. Representations of the other objects suggested that their organization was embodied in that they appear to be shaped by how the human body interacts, or doesn't interact, with the object.

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© 2004 Psychology Press Ltd.