Markus Ostarek

Publications

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10
  • Arunkumar, M., Van Paridon, J., Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2021). Do illiterates have illusions? A conceptual (non)replication of Luria (1976). Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 5, 143-158. doi:10.1007/s41809-021-00080-x.

    Abstract

    Luria (1976) famously observed that people who never learnt to read and write do not perceive visual illusions. We conducted a conceptual replication of the Luria study of the effect of literacy on the processing of visual illusions. We designed two carefully controlled experiments with 161 participants with varying literacy levels ranging from complete illiterates to high literates in Chennai, India. Accuracy and reaction time in the identification of two types of visual shape and color illusions and the identification of appropriate control images were measured. Separate statistical analyses of Experiments 1 and 2 as well as pooled analyses of both experiments do not provide any support for the notion that literacy effects the perception of visual illusions. Our large sample, carefully controlled study strongly suggests that literacy does not meaningfully affect the identification of visual illusions and raises some questions about other reports about cultural effects on illusion perception.
  • Ortega, G., & Ostarek, M. (2021). Evidence for visual simulation during sign language processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/xge0001041.

    Abstract

    What are the mental processes that allow us to understand the meaning of words? A large body of evidence suggests that when we process speech, we engage a process of perceptual simulation whereby sensorimotor states are activated as a source of semantic information. But does the same process take place when words are expressed with the hands and perceived through the eyes? To date, it is not known whether perceptual simulation is also observed in sign languages, the manual-visual languages of deaf communities. Continuous flash suppression is a method that addresses this question by measuring the effect of language on detection sensitivity to images that are suppressed from awareness. In spoken languages, it has been reported that listening to a word (e.g., “bottle”) activates visual features of an object (e.g., the shape of a bottle), and this in turn facilitates image detection. An interesting but untested question is whether the same process takes place when deaf signers see signs. We found that processing signs boosted the detection of congruent images, making otherwise invisible pictures visible. A boost of visual processing was observed only for signers but not for hearing nonsigners, suggesting that the penetration of the visual system through signs requires a fully fledged manual language. Iconicity did not modulate the effect of signs on detection, neither in signers nor in hearing nonsigners. This suggests that visual simulation during language processing occurs regardless of language modality (sign vs. speech) or iconicity, pointing to a foundational role of simulation for language comprehension.

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  • Ostarek, M., & Bottini, R. (2021). Towards strong inference in research on embodiment – Possibilities and limitations of causal paradigms. Journal of Cognition, 4(1): 5. doi:10.5334/joc.139.

    Abstract

    A central question in the cognitive sciences is which role embodiment plays for high- level cognitive functions, such as conceptual processing. here, we propose that one reason why progress regarding this question has been slow is a lacking focus on what platt (1964) called “strong inference”. strong inference is possible when results from an experimental paradigm are not merely consistent with a hypothesis, but they provide decisive evidence for one particular hypothesis compared to competing hypotheses. We discuss how causal paradigms, which test the functional relevance of sensory-motor processes for high-level cognitive functions, can move the field forward. in particular, we explore how congenital sensory-motor disorders, acquired sensory-motor deficits, and interference paradigms with healthy participants can be utilized as an opportunity to better understand the role of sensory experience in conceptual processing. Whereas all three approaches can bring about valuable insights, we highlight that the study of congenitally and acquired sensorimotor disorders is particularly effective in the case of conceptual domains with strong unimodal basis (e.g., colors), whereas interference paradigms with healthy participants have a broader application, avoid many of the practical and interpretational limitations of patient studies, and allow a systematic and step-wise progressive inference approach to causal mechanisms.
  • Van Paridon, J., Ostarek, M., Arunkumar, M., & Huettig, F. (2021). Does neuronal recycling result in destructive competition? The influence of learning to read on the recognition of faces. Psychological Science, 32, 459-465. doi:10.1177/0956797620971652.

    Abstract

    Written language, a human cultural invention, is far too recent for dedicated neural infrastructure to have evolved in its service. Culturally newly acquired skills (e.g. reading) thus ‘recycle’ evolutionarily older circuits that originally evolved for different, but similar functions (e.g. visual object recognition). The destructive competition hypothesis predicts that this neuronal recycling has detrimental behavioral effects on the cognitive functions a cortical network originally evolved for. In a study with 97 literate, low-literate, and illiterate participants from the same socioeconomic background we find that even after adjusting for cognitive ability and test-taking familiarity, learning to read is associated with an increase, rather than a decrease, in object recognition abilities. These results are incompatible with the claim that neuronal recycling results in destructive competition and consistent with the possibility that learning to read instead fine-tunes general object recognition mechanisms, a hypothesis that needs further neuroscientific investigation.

    Additional information

    supplemental material
  • Kochari, A. R., & Ostarek, M. (2018). Introducing a replication-first rule for PhD projects (commmentary on Zwaan et al., ‘Making replication mainstream’). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 41: e138. doi:10.1017/S0140525X18000730.

    Abstract

    Zwaan et al. mention that young researchers should conduct replications as a small part of their portfolio. We extend this proposal and suggest that conducting and reporting replications should become an integral part of PhD projects and be taken into account in their assessment. We discuss how this would help not only scientific advancement, but also PhD candidates’ careers.
  • Ostarek, M. (2018). Envisioning language: An exploration of perceptual processes in language comprehension. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Ostarek, M., Ishag, I., Joosen, D., & Huettig, F. (2018). Saccade trajectories reveal dynamic interactions of semantic and spatial information during the processing of implicitly spatial words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44(10), 1658-1670. doi:10.1037/xlm0000536.

    Abstract

    Implicit up/down words, such as bird and foot, systematically influence performance on visual tasks involving immediately following targets in compatible vs. incompatible locations. Recent studies have observed that the semantic relation between prime words and target pictures can strongly influence the size and even the direction of the effect: Semantically related targets are processed faster in congruent vs. incongruent locations (location-specific priming), whereas unrelated targets are processed slower in congruent locations. Here, we used eye-tracking to investigate the moment-to-moment processes underlying this pattern. Our reaction time results for related targets replicated the location-specific priming effect and showed a trend towards interference for unrelated targets. We then used growth curve analysis to test how up/down words and their match vs. mismatch with immediately following targets in terms of semantics and vertical location influences concurrent saccadic eye movements. There was a strong main effect of spatial association on linear growth with up words biasing changes in y-coordinates over time upwards relative to down words (and vice versa). Similar to the RT data, this effect was strongest for semantically related targets and reversed for unrelated targets. Intriguingly, all conditions showed a bias in the congruent direction in the initial stage of the saccade. Then, at around halfway into the saccade the effect kept increasing in the semantically related condition, and reversed in the unrelated condition. These results suggest that online processing of up/down words triggers direction-specific oculomotor processes that are dynamically modulated by the semantic relation between prime words and targets.
  • Popov, V., Ostarek, M., & Tenison, C. (2018). Practices and pitfalls in inferring neural representations. NeuroImage, 174, 340-351. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.03.041.

    Abstract

    A key challenge for cognitive neuroscience is deciphering the representational schemes of the brain. Stimulus-feature-based encoding models are becoming increasingly popular for inferring the dimensions of neural representational spaces from stimulus-feature spaces. We argue that such inferences are not always valid because successful prediction can occur even if the two representational spaces use different, but correlated, representational schemes. We support this claim with three simulations in which we achieved high prediction accuracy despite systematic differences in the geometries and dimensions of the underlying representations. Detailed analysis of the encoding models' predictions showed systematic deviations from ground-truth, indicating that high prediction accuracy is insufficient for making representational inferences. This fallacy applies to the prediction of actual neural patterns from stimulus-feature spaces and we urge caution in inferring the nature of the neural code from such methods. We discuss ways to overcome these inferential limitations, including model comparison, absolute model performance, visualization techniques and attentional modulation.
  • Lima, C. F., Lavan, N., Evans, S., Agnew, Z., Halpern, A. R., Shanmugalingam, P., Meekings, S., Boebinger, D., Ostarek, M., McGettigan, C., Warren, J. E., & Scott, S. K. (2015). Feel the Noise: Relating individual differences in auditory imagery to the structure and function of sensorimotor systems. Cerebral Cortex., 2015(25), 4638-4650. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhv134.

    Abstract

    Humans can generate mental auditory images of voices or songs, sometimes perceiving them almost as vividly as perceptual experiences. The functional networks supporting auditory imagery have been described, but less is known about the systems associated with interindividual differences in auditory imagery. Combining voxel-based morphometry and fMRI, we examined the structural basis of interindividual differences in how auditory images are subjectively perceived, and explored associations between auditory imagery, sensory-based processing, and visual imagery. Vividness of auditory imagery correlated with gray matter volume in the supplementary motor area (SMA), parietal cortex, medial superior frontal gyrus, and middle frontal gyrus. An analysis of functional responses to different types of human vocalizations revealed that the SMA and parietal sites that predict imagery are also modulated by sound type. Using representational similarity analysis, we found that higher representational specificity of heard sounds in SMA predicts vividness of imagery, indicating a mechanistic link between sensory- and imagery-based processing in sensorimotor cortex. Vividness of imagery in the visual domain also correlated with SMA structure, and with auditory imagery scores. Altogether, these findings provide evidence for a signature of imagery in brain structure, and highlight a common role of perceptual–motor interactions for processing heard and internally generated auditory information.
  • Meekings, S., Boebinger, D., Evans, S., Lima, C. F., Chen, S., Ostarek, M., & Scott, S. K. (2015). Do we know what we’re saying? The roles of attention and sensory information during speech production. Psychological Science, 26(12), 1975-1977. doi:10.1177/0956797614563766.

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