February 24, 2021

Verbal Labels Facilitate Tactile Texture Discrimination in a Perceptual Learning Task

The influence of language on perceptual processes, referred to as the Whorfian hypothesis, has been a contentious issue. Cross-linguistic research and lab-based experiments have shown that verbal labels can facilitate perceptual and discriminatory processes, mostly in visual and auditory modalities. Here, we investigated whether verbal labels improve performance in a tactile texture discrimination task using natural textures. We also explored whether the grammatical category of these verbal labels plays a role in discrimination ability. In our experiments, we asked the participants to discriminate between pairs of textures presented to the fingertip after a five-day training phase. During the training phase, the tactile textures and English pseudowords were co-presented consistently in the congruent (experimental) condition and inconsistently in the incongruent (control) condition, allowing them to form implicit associations only in the former condition. The pseudoword verbal labels belonged to two grammatical categories, verb-like and noun-like. We found an improvement in the texture discrimination ability only for the congruent condition, irrespective of the grammatical category.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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