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Much of the reading that we do occurs near our hands. Previous research has revealed that spatial processing is enhanced near the hands, potentially benefiting several processes involved in reading; however, it is unknown whether semantic processing—another critical aspect of reading—is affected near the hands. While holding their hands either near to or far from a visual display, our subjects performed two tasks that drew on semantic processing: evaluation of the sensibleness of sentences, and the Stroop color–word interference task. We found evidence for impoverished semantic processing near the hands in both tasks. These results suggest a trade-off between spatial processing and semantic processing for the visual space around the hands. Readers are encouraged to be aware of this trade-off when choosing how to read a text, since both kinds of processing can be beneficial for reading.
Source: “When meaning matters, look but don’t touch: The effects of posture on reading” from Memory & Cognition, 38, 555-562.
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