Studies on the presence of mental simulations during language comprehension have typically focused only on single object properties. This study investigates whether two objects are combined in mental simulations, and whether this is influenced by task instructions. In both experiments, participants read sentences describing animals using a tool in some way. After each sentence, they saw an image of a cartoon animal holding a tool, and they indicated whether the animal (Experiment 1) or the tool (Experiment 2) was mentioned in the previous sentence or not. The shown image completely matched, partially matched, partially mismatched, or completely mismatched the preceding sentence. In total, 90 Dutch psychology students took part in Experiment 1, and 92 students took part in Experiment 2, both experiments were pre-registered. The results suggest that mental simulations indeed combine multiple objects during language comprehension and that this is not influenced by task instructions. Regardless of the instruction type, participants always responded quickest in the complete match condition compared to the partial match condition, suggesting that language comprehension leads to the creation of a complete mental simulation.
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© Experimental Psychology Society 2020.