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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2015, Vol. 47 Issue (3) : 285-299     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.00285
The Influence of Language Labels and Self-Reference on New Object Categorical Perception
LIU Siyun; MENG Jianxin
(Key Laboratory of Adolescent Cyberpsychology and Behavior (CCNU), Ministry of Education; School of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079 China)
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Categorical perception is one of the most basic cognitive processes of human beings. When humans process incoming information, categorization help them further clarify and simplify the sophisticated inputs. The categorical perception effect refers to the phenomenon that individuals will respond faster or more accurately when discriminating two stimuli that cross a category boundary than when discriminating two stimuli from the same category, despite between- and within-category stimuli being equated in distance (Bornstein & Korda, 1984). However, inconsistent evidence has been obtained from previous studies on how language would influence categorical perception. The language label theory suggested that the language label is a cue that helps individuals to categorize information unconsciously and automatically; whereas perceptual feature theory suggested that categorical perception is based on a pure perceptual process, which arises from life experiences that eventually changes the mappings of perceptual neurons. The current study systematically investigates how language labels would interact with self-reference factor to play a mutual role on new object categorical perception. The hypothesis of this study is that language labels are not the only important factors that would influence categorical perception, other social or personality factors may also play a role, but it is not sure whether language labels would play a more important role. In this study, three experiments were conducted. In Experiment 1, a 2 (language label learning times: more vs. less) ´ 2 (object category: between vs. within) ´ 2 (visual field: left vs. right) mixed experiment was designed, and it is found that only the participants who have learned the labels for more times showed a significant right visual field advantage effect. In Experiment 2, a 2 (object self-reference connection: tight vs. loose) × 2 (object category: between vs. within) × 2 (visual field: left vs. right) mixed experiment was designed. This time, all the participants learned the language labels for only twice. As a result, it is found that only the participants who had built a tight self-reference connection with the new object revealed a significant categorical perception effect, however, on both left- and right-visual fields. Furthermore, higher level of self-reference made the participants show a better discriminating ability for between-category objects, but not for within-category objects. In Experiment 3, a 2 (object self-reference connection: tight vs. loose) × 2 (object category: between vs. within) × 2 (visual field: left vs. right) mixed experiment was designed. This time all the participants learned the language labels for seven times. As a result, it is found that under higher level representation of language labels, both language label and the self-reference play a role on categorical perception. In summary, this study revealed an important and complicated role of language labels on categorical perception, and a nonetheless very important influence of self-reference as well.

Keywords categorical perception      language label      self-reference      right visual field advantage effect     
Corresponding Authors: LIU Siyun, E-mail:   
Issue Date: 25 March 2015
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LIU Siyun; MENG Jianxin. The Influence of Language Labels and Self-Reference on New Object Categorical Perception[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica,2015, 47(3): 285-299.
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