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date: 07 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Semantic memory refers to general knowledge about the world, including concepts, facts, and beliefs (e.g., that a lemon is normally yellow and sour or that Paris is in France). How is this kind of knowledge acquired or lost? How is it stored and retrieved? This chapter reviews evidence that conceptual knowledge about concrete objects is acquired through experience with them, thereby grounding knowledge in distributed representations across brain regions that are involved in perceiving or acting on them, and impaired by damage to these brain regions. The authors suggest that these distributed representations result in flexible concepts that can vary depending on the task and context, as well as on individual experience. Further, they discuss the role of brain regions implicated in selective attention in supporting such conceptual flexibility. Finally, the authors consider the neural bases of other aspects of conceptual knowledge, such as the ability to generalize (e.g., to map lemons and grapes onto the category of fruit), and the ability to represent knowledge that does not have a direct sensorimotor correlate (e.g., abstract concepts, such as peace).

Keywords: semantic memory, concepts, categories, representation, knowledge, sensorimotor, grounding, embodiment

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