The Fabric of Thought: Priming Tactile Properties During Reading Influences Direct Tactile Perception


should be sent to Tad T. Brunyé, Ph.D., Tufts University, Department of Psychology, 490 Boston Ave, Medford, MA 02155. E-mail:


The present studies examined whether implied tactile properties during language comprehension influence subsequent direct tactile perception, and the specificity of any such effects. Participants read sentences that implicitly conveyed information regarding tactile properties (e.g., Grace tried on a pair of thick corduroy pants while shopping) that were either related or unrelated to fabrics and varied in implied texture (smooth, medium, rough). After reading each sentence, participants then performed an unrelated rating task during which they felt and rated the texture of a presented fabric. Results demonstrated that the texture properties implied in sentences influence direct tactile perception. Specifically, after reading about a smooth or rough texture, subsequent fabric ratings became notably smoother or rougher, respectively. However, we also show that there was some specificity to these effects: Fabric-related sentences elicited more specific and interactive effects on subsequent ratings. Together, we demonstrate that under certain circumstances, language comprehension can prime tactile representations and affect direct tactile perception. Results are discussed with regard to the nature and scope of multimodal mental simulation during reading.