Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Guest entry #432: Bill Idsardi on "A Shaving Mirror?"

OK, so we're sitting around TB-East HQ (i.e. DP's office) this afternoon, trying to design an fMRI experiment with Al Braun and Nuria Abdulsabur, batting around ideas about embodied cognition (search this blog for "mirror neurons") and possible ways to test it.

Then it occurs to us--we can use secondary sex characteristics and, better yet, blatant gender stereotypes to good effect here. Forget about "lick, pick, kick" (http://www.neuron.org/content/article/abstract?uid=PIIS0896627303008389), use "shave". Then we'll see the somatosensory/motor area for faces light up in men, and the area for legs light up in women (NSFW image deleted).

Post your suggestions for additional stimuli in the comments. Best suggestion wins a Gillette Sensor (your choice: women's or men's).

7 comments:

sulo said...

What about going for also testing the somatosensory/motor area for faces lighting up in women and the area for legs lighting up in men?

make it men's gillette sensor!

good and very enjoyable blog...

jonas said...

I am waiting for you guys to get this into Neuron. —Thinking of it, I guess there is a glimpse of hope. Anyway, upon further notice of your proceedings in the matter, may I kindly suggest—as an alternative target journal—the outstanding periodical Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology with contributions like Evaluating the gentleness of a new professional model sonic skin care brush though non-invasive measurements of the skin barrier.

Greg Hickok said...

Dude, people shave all kinds of things. Who knows WHAT will light up.

Kensy said...

hmmm... not sure if you are only looking for more gender-specific stimuli or just generally more stimuli to explore the notion of "embodied cognition". don't think i can help you much on the gender specific front... at first blush seems like it might be a stretch to come up with enough stimuli to fill an experiment. but i look forward to being surprised :).

if i may kibbitz on the more general front: it would be cool to see how the same verbs activate different motor areas depending on context (so, similar experiment, but vary context instead of gender). if we take notions of embodied simulation in language processing seriously, then "push" in the context of pushing a button ought to look different in the scanner than "push" in the context of pushing a shopping cart. there are presumably other verbs like this that don't specify a canonical motor action per se. don't know what kind of resolution you can really get with fmri, but it would be cool to see differences between precision grip and power grip in the scanner (like with the phrase "pick up").

also cool would just be to look at right-handers versus left-handers (so, similar experiment, but vary handedness instead of gender). daniel casasanto has done a little bit on this under the heading of "body-relativity" (but not with fmri).

Anita Bowles said...

I want to know whether you get leg/foot activation for idioms, like "kick the bucket". How about metaphors that include action words or physical underpinnings? Can you show that "kick" acts differently in literal vs. figurative phrases?

Greig de Zubicaray said...

The studies by Tettamanti et al. (2005) and Aziz-Zadeh et al. (2006) used abstract/metaphorical and concrete/literal sentences. The problem with this approach is that phrases like "handling the truth" or "grasping the idea" include an abstract noun, so the activity observed could be due to the verb, the noun, or both. I say we grab a bunch of mime artists and test their language capabilities. I don't have a hypothesis just yet, the idea of grabbing a bunch of mime artists just appeals to me... you yanks have access to Mace don't you?

Anita Bowles said...

Mace? Don't you know we're all armed to the teeth over here. Even the mimes are probably packing heat. Anyway, I wouldn't want to try to catch a mime. They're too clown-like for my comfort.