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How action and context priming influence categorization: A developmental study


Correspondence should be addressed to Solène Kalénine, Laboratoire de Psychologie et NeuroCognition, CNRS UMR 5105, Université Pierre Mendès France, PO Box 47, F-38040 Grenoble Cedex 9, France (e-mail:


Embodied views of cognition propose that concepts are grounded in sensorimotor experience. Diverse aspects of sensorimotor experience, like action and context information, could play a key role in the formation and processing of manipulable object concepts. Specifically, contextual information could help to link specific actions experienced with different object exemplars. In this study, the effects of action and context priming on superordinate and basic-level categorization of manipulable objects were directly contrasted in 7- and 9-year-olds and in adults. Across the ages, results revealed a differential effect of hand and scene primes on conceptual processing at the superordinate and basic levels; the disadvantage of superordinate over basic-level categorization was reduced in the context priming condition in comparison to the action priming condition. The nature and role of contextual knowledge are discussed from a cognitive and a neurophysiological point of view. Directions for further developmental research on concepts are also considered.