Variety, flexibility, and use of abstract concepts. A multiple grounded perspective.

Villani, Caterina (2022) Variety, flexibility, and use of abstract concepts. A multiple grounded perspective., [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Philosophy, science, cognition, and semiotics (pscs), 34 Ciclo. DOI 10.48676/unibo/amsdottorato/10310.
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The nature of concepts is a matter of intense debate in cognitive sciences. While traditional views claim that conceptual knowledge is represented in a unitary symbolic system, recent Embodied and Grounded Cognition theories (EGC) submit the idea that conceptual system is couched in our body and influenced by the environment (Barsalou, 2008). One of the major challenges for EGC is constituted by abstract concepts (ACs), like fantasy. Recently, some EGC proposals addressed this criticism, arguing that the ACs comprise multifaced exemplars that rely on different grounding sources beyond sensorimotor one, including interoception, emotions, language, and sociality (Borghi et al., 2018). However, little is known about how ACs representation varies as a function of life experiences and their use in communication. The theoretical arguments and empirical studies comprised in this dissertation aim to provide evidence on multiple grounding of ACs taking into account their varieties and flexibility. Study I analyzed multiple ratings on a large sample of ACs and identified four distinct subclusters. Study II validated this classification with an interference paradigm involving motor/manual, interoceptive, and linguistic systems during a difficulty rating task. Results confirm that different grounding sources are activated depending on ACs kind. Study III-IV investigate the variability of institutional concepts, showing that the higher the law expertise level, the stronger the concrete/emotional determinants in their representation. Study V introduced a novel interactive task in which abstract and concrete sentences serve as cues to simulate conversation. Analysis of language production revealed that the uncertainty and interactive exchanges increase with abstractness, leading to generating more questions/requests for clarifications with abstract than concrete sentences. Overall, results confirm that ACs are multidimensional, heterogeneous, and flexible constructs and that social and linguistic interactions are crucial to shaping their meanings. Investigating ACs in real-time dialogues may be a promising direction for future research.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Villani, Caterina
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
embodied and grounded cognition; concepts; abstract concepts; multiple representations; language and cognition; social interaction
Data di discussione
27 Giugno 2022

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