PhD defence L.N. (Lara) Hoeben Mannaert
- Prof.dr. R.A. Zwaan
- Dr. K. Dijkstra
On Friday 13 March 2020, L.N. Hoeben Mannaert will defend her PhD dissertation, entitled: ‘Language Comprehension: Examining the Dynamic Changes in Activation of Mental Simulations’.
When you read a book, have you ever had the experience that a movie was playing in your head? In the past, many researchers have thought that the brain processes language much like a computer reads code. Words are translated into a type of code or symbols inside the brain and these symbols are used to create meaning. More recently, however, evidence has emerged that language comprehension makes use of the same parts of the brain that are used for experiencing the real world. For example, the sensory experiences you have when touching, seeing, smelling, or hearing a dog also become (partially) activated when you read or hear the word “dog”. This dissertation delves more into the underlying mechanism of these mental simulations and provides answers to several research questions that have not yet been answered. For instance, is color also activated when reading sentences that imply – but don’t explicitly mention – color? What about the continued activation of such mental simulation? If you read about a man wearing a pointy hat, do those simulations contain an “image” of a pointy hat each time the text refers to that man? And if the hat is thrown away, does the representation of this man change in those simulations? Do these mental simulations create a combined “image” of a man with a hat, or is each object referred to in the text simulated separately? And finally, do younger and older adults have a similar capacity for updating these mental models?
The public defence will take place at the Senatehall, 1st floor of the Erasmus Building, Campus Woudestein. The ceremony will begin exactly at 11.30 hrs. In light of the solemn nature of the ceremony, we recommend that you do not take children under the age of 6 to the first part of the ceremony.