The effects of an action's “age-of-acquisition” on action-sentence processing

Michael Gilead*, Nira Liberman, Anat Maril

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


How does our brain allow us comprehend abstract/symbolic descriptions of human action? Whereas past research suggested that processing action language relies on sensorimotor brain regions, recent work suggests that sensorimotor activation depends on participants’ task goals, such that focusing on abstract (vs. concrete) aspects of an action activates “default mode network” (rather than sensorimotor) regions. Following a Piagetian framework, we hypothesized that for actions acquired at an age wherein abstract/symbolic cognition is fully-developed, even when participants focus on the concrete aspects of an action, they should retrieve abstract-symbolic mental representations. In two studies, participants processed the concrete (i.e., “how”) and abstract (i.e., “why”) aspects of late-acquired and early-acquired actions. Consistent with previous research, focusing on the abstract (vs. concrete) aspects of an action resulted in greater activation in the “default mode network”. Importantly, the activation in these regions was higher when processing later-acquired (vs. earlier acquired) actions—also when participants’ goal was to focus on the concrete aspects of the action. We discuss the implications of the current findings to research on the involvement of concrete representations in abstract cognition.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)341-349
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • Abstract cognition
  • Action sentence processing
  • Age of acquisition
  • Embodied cognition
  • Social cognition
  • fMRI


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