No fruits without color: Cross-modal priming and eeg reveal different roles for different features across semantic categories




March, 2021


Georgette Argiris, Davide Crepaldi and Raffaella I. Rumiati

Category-specific impairments witnessed in patients with semantic deficits have broadly dissociated into natural and artificial kinds. However, how the category of food (more specifically, fruits and vegetables) fits into this distinction has been difficult to interpret, given a pattern of deficit that has inconsistently mapped onto either kind, despite its intuitive membership to the natural domain. The present study explores the effects of a manipulation of a visual sensory (i.e., color) or functional (i.e., orientation) feature on the consequential semantic processing of fruits and vegetables (and tools, by comparison), first at the behavioral and then at the neural level. The categorization of natural (i.e., fruits/vegetables) and artificial (i.e., utensils) entities was investigated via cross–modal priming.  Reaction time analysis indicated a reduction in priming for color-modified natural entities and orientation-modified artificial entities. Standard event-related potentials (ERP) analysis was performed, in addition to linear classification. For natural entities, a N400 effect at central channel sites was observed for the color-modified condition compared relative to normal and orientation conditions, with this difference confirmed by classification analysis. Conversely, there was no significant difference between conditions for the artificial category in either analysis. These findings provide strong evidence that color is an integral property to the categorization of fruits/vegetables, thus substantiating the claim that feature-based processing guides ­ as a function of semantic category.

The paper is now in production at PLoS ONE and will be availble at the journal soon.