In two eye-tracking studies we investigated the influence of Mandarin numeral classifiers – a grammatical category in the language – on online overt attention. Mandarin speakers were presented with simple sentences through headphones while their eye-movements to objects presented on a computer screen were monitored. The crucial question is what participants look at while listening to a pre-specified target noun. If classifier categories influence Mandarin speakers' general conceptual processing, then on hearing the target noun they should look at objects that are members of the same classifier category – even when the classifier is not explicitly present (cf., Huettig and Altmann, 2005). The data show that when participants heard a classifier (e.g., ba3, Experiment 1) they shifted overt attention significantly more to classifiermatch objects (e.g., chair) than to distractor objects, but when the classifier was not explicitly presented in speech, overt attention to classifier-match objects and distractor objects did not differ (Experiment 2). This suggests that although classifier distinctions do influence eye-gaze behavior, they do so only during linguistic processing of that distinction and not in moment-to-moment general conceptual processing.
Numerous studies demonstrate people associate colors with letters and numbers in systematic ways. But most of these studies rely on speakers of English, or closely related languages. This makes it difficult to know how generalizable these findings are, or what factors might underlie these associations. We investigated letter–color and number–color associations in Arabic speakers, who have a different writing system and unusual word structure compared to Standard Average European languages. We also aimed to identify grapheme–color synaesthetes (people who have conscious color experiences with letters and numbers). Participants associated colors with 28 basic Arabic letters and ten digits by typing color names that best fit each grapheme. We found language-specific principles determining grapheme–color associations. For example, the word formation process in Arabic was relevant for color associations. In addition, psycholinguistic variables, such as letter frequency and the intrinsic order of graphemes influenced associations. Contrary to previous studies we found no evidence for sounds playing a role in letter–color associations for Arabic, and only a very limited role for shape influencing color associations. These findings highlight the importance of linguistic and psycholinguistic features in cross-modal correspondences, and illustrate why it is important to play close attention to each language on its own terms in order to disentangle language-specific from universal effects.
When we imagine objects or events, we often engage in multisensory mental imagery. Yet, investigations of mental imagery have typically focused on only one sensory modality — vision. One reason for this is that the most common tool for the measurement of imagery, the questionnaire, has been restricted to unimodal ratings of the object. We present a new mental imagery questionnaire that measures multisensory imagery. Specifically, the newly developed Vividness of Wine Imagery Questionnaire (VWIQ) measures mental imagery of wine in the visual, olfactory, and gustatory modalities. Wine is an ideal domain to explore multisensory imagery because wine drinking is a multisensory experience, it involves the neglected chemical senses (smell and taste), and provides the opportunity to explore the effect of experience and expertise on imagery (from wine novices to experts). The VWIQ questionnaire showed high internal consistency and reliability, and correlated with other validated measures of imagery. Overall, the VWIQ may serve as a useful tool to explore mental imagery for researchers, as well as individuals in the wine industry during sommelier training and evaluation of wine professionals.