The idea that concepts are action-based is compatible with two possibilities. Concepts can be conceived of directly as patterns of potential action (Glenberg, 1997) or as being made of “perceptual symbols”, from which it is possible to quickly extract action information (Barsalou, 1999). If concepts directly evoke actions, they allow us to respond quickly to environmental stimuli. However, we may need to interact with objects in different ways depending on our current goals and on the current situation. I will discuss evidence in support of both claims. Motor information is incorporated directly into concepts for simple interaction with their referents, particularly with manipulable objects, but when it comes to performing complex goal-oriented actions with complex objects we may access more general perceptual and situational information and utilize it in a more flexible manner. This is true both in the presence of objects and when objects are referred to by words.
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