Are Bodies Special?

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How do we think about the space of bodies? This was addressed in body-part verification tasks exploring several accounts of mental representations of bodies. An imagery account predicts faster times to larger parts (e. g., back < hand). A part distinctiveness account predicts faster times to more discontinuous parts (e. g., arm < chest). A part significance account predicts faster times to parts that are perceptually distinct and functionally important (head < back). Because distinctiveness and significance are correlated, these accounts are more difficult to distinguish. Both name-body and body-body comparisons were investigated in four experiments. In all, larger parts were verified slower than smaller ones, eliminating the imagery account. Despite the similarity between distinctiveness and significance, the data suggest that when comparisons are perceptual (body-body), part distinctiveness is the best predictor, and when explicit or implicit naming is involved, part significance is the best predictor. Naming seems to activate functional aspects of bodies.

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