Skip to main content


Interaction of language with visuo-spatial cognition

Trainee Achievements

Interaction of language with visuo-spatial cognition

To address a central question in cognitive science, how autonomous is language from the rest of cognition?, the interaction of language with visuo-spatial cognition has proved a particularly fruitful area. In her dissertation research, trainee Banchiamlack Dessalegn documents a new type of non-autonomy in which the formal syntactic and semantic structure of the output of the linguistic comprehension system triggers internal modification of the representations involved in visual tasks: she shows that the figure-ground relations of linguistic expressions can affect the figure-ground relations of spatial representations. Dessalegn’s developmental work with 3-, 4-, and 6-year old children as well as adults shows that the linguistic and spatial processing systems operate independently of each other early in development and gradually become linked to a point where language is automatically activated in nonlinguistic tasks.