In Frontiers in psychology ; h5-index 92.0
How are abstract concepts grounded in perceptual experiences for shaping human conceptual knowledge? Recent studies on abstract concepts emphasizing the role of language have argued that abstract concepts are grounded indirectly in perceptual experiences and language (or words) functions as a bridge between abstract concepts and perceptual experiences. However, this "indirect grounding" view remains largely speculative and has hardly been supported directly by empirical evidence. In this paper, therefore, we test the indirect grounding view by means of multimodal distributional semantics, in which the meaning of a word (i.e., a concept) is represented as the combination of textual and visual vectors. The newly devised multimodal distributional semantic model incorporates the indirect grounding view by computing the visual vector of an abstract word through the visual vectors of concrete words semantically related to that abstract word. An evaluation experiment is conducted in which conceptual representation is predicted from multimodal vectors using a multilayer feed-forward neural network. The analysis of prediction performance demonstrates that the indirect grounding model achieves significantly better performance in predicting human conceptual representation of abstract words than other models that mimic competing views on abstract concepts, especially than the direct grounding model in which the visual vectors of abstract words are computed directly from the images of abstract concepts. This result lends some plausibility to the indirect grounding view as a cognitive mechanism of grounding abstract concepts.
abstract concepts, conceptual representation, embodied cognition, indirect grounding, multimodal distributional semantic model, symbol grounding problem