Monique Flecken


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  • Flecken, M., & Van Bergen, G. (2019). Can the English stand the bottle like the Dutch? Effects of relational categories on object perception. Cognitive Neuropsychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/02643294.2019.1607272.


    Does language influence how we perceive the world? This study examines how linguistic encoding of relational information by means of verbs implicitly affects visual processing, by measuring perceptual judgements behaviourally, and visual perception and attention in EEG. Verbal systems can vary cross-linguistically: Dutch uses posture verbs to describe inanimate object configurations (the bottle stands/lies on the table). In English, however, such use of posture verbs is rare (the bottle is on the table). Using this test case, we ask (1) whether previously attested language-perception interactions extend to more complex domains, and (2) whether differences in linguistic usage probabilities affect perception. We report three nonverbal experiments in which Dutch and English participants performed a picture-matching task. Prime and target pictures contained object configurations (e.g., a bottle on a table); in the critical condition, prime and target showed a mismatch in object position (standing/lying). In both language groups, we found similar responses, suggesting that probabilistic differences in linguistic encoding of relational information do not affect perception.
  • Kochari, A., & Flecken, M. (2019). Lexical prediction in language comprehension: A replication study of grammatical gender effects in Dutch. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 34(2), 239-253. doi:10.1080/23273798.2018.1524500.


    An important question in predictive language processing is the extent to which prediction effects can reliably be measured on pre-nominal material (e.g. articles before nouns). Here, we present a large sample (N = 58) close replication of a study by Otten and van Berkum (2009). They report ERP modulations in relation to the predictability of nouns in sentences, measured on gender-marked Dutch articles. We used nearly identical materials, procedures, and data analysis steps. We fail to replicate the original effect, but do observe a pattern consistent with the original data. Methodological differences between our replication and the original study that could potentially have contributed to the diverging results are discussed. In addition, we discuss the suitability of Dutch gender-marked determiners as a test-case for future studies of pre-activation of lexical items.
  • Sakarias, M., & Flecken, M. (2019). Keeping the result in sight and mind: General cognitive principles and language-specific influences in the perception and memory of resultative events. Cognitive Science, 43(1), 1-30. doi:10.1111/cogs.12708.


    We study how people attend to and memorize endings of events that differ in the degree to which objects in them are affected by an action: Resultative events show objects that undergo a visually salient change in state during the course of the event (peeling a potato), and non‐resultative events involve objects that undergo no, or only partial state change (stirring in a pan). We investigate general cognitive principles, and potential language‐specific influences, in verbal and nonverbal event encoding and memory, across two experiments with Dutch and Estonian participants. Estonian marks a viewer's perspective on an event's result obligatorily via grammatical case on direct object nouns: Objects undergoing a partial/full change in state in an event are marked with partitive/accusative case, respectively. Therefore, we hypothesized increased saliency of object states and event results in Estonian speakers, as compared to speakers of Dutch. Findings show (a) a general cognitive principle of attending carefully to endings of resultative events, implying cognitive saliency of object states in event processing; (b) a language‐specific boost on attention and memory of event results under verbal task demands in Estonian speakers. Results are discussed in relation to theories of event cognition, linguistic relativity, and thinking for speaking.
  • Van Bergen, G., Flecken, M., & Wu, R. (2019). Rapid target selection of object categories based on verbs: Implications for language-categorization interactions. Psychophysiology, 56(9): e13395. doi:10.1111/psyp.13395.


    Although much is known about how nouns facilitate object categorization, very little is known about how verbs (e.g., posture verbs such as stand or lie) facilitate object categorization. Native Dutch speakers are a unique population to investigate this issue with because the configurational categories distinguished by staan (to stand) and liggen (to lie) are inherent in everyday Dutch language. Using an ERP component (N2pc), four experiments demonstrate that selection of posture verb categories is rapid (between 220–320 ms). The effect was attenuated, though present, when removing the perceptual distinction between categories. A similar attenuated effect was obtained in native English speakers, where the category distinction is less familiar, and when category labels were implicit for native Dutch speakers. Our results are among the first to demonstrate that category search based on verbs can be rapid, although extensive linguistic experience and explicit labels may not be necessary to facilitate categorization in this case.

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