PLoS ONE (Jan 2013)
Reading "sun" and looking up: the influence of language on saccadic eye movements in the vertical dimension.
Traditionally, language processing has been attributed to a separate system in the brain, which supposedly works in an abstract propositional manner. However, there is increasing evidence suggesting that language processing is strongly interrelated with sensorimotor processing. Evidence for such an interrelation is typically drawn from interactions between language and perception or action. In the current study, the effect of words that refer to entities in the world with a typical location (e.g., sun, worm) on the planning of saccadic eye movements was investigated. Participants had to perform a lexical decision task on visually presented words and non-words. They responded by moving their eyes to a target in an upper (lower) screen position for a word (non-word) or vice versa. Eye movements were faster to locations compatible with the word's referent in the real world. These results provide evidence for the importance of linguistic stimuli in directing eye movements, even if the words do not directly transfer directional information.