Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Dr. Ken McRae


In psychology, the abstract/concrete distinction refers to a distinction among concepts, which is typically characterized as follows. Concrete concepts are those whose referents can be experienced through sensation/perception, such as dog or pond, whereas abstract concepts are those whose referents lack this attribute, such as truth (Wiemer-Hastings & Xu, 2005; Connell & Lynott, 2012; Brysbaert, Warriner, & Kuperman, 2014). This thesis describes and, using word association, tests several theories of conceptual representation motivated by the abstract/concrete distinction (or, where not motivated by it, with potential implications related to it). These include Dual Coding Theory (Paivio, 1986, 2007), Perceptual Symbol Systems (Barsalou, 1999, 2008), Language and Situated Simulations (Barsalou, Santos, Simmons, & Wilson, 2008), and Different Representational Frameworks (Crutch & Warrington, 2005, 2007, 2010). We find mixed support for Dual Coding Theory and Perceptual Symbol Systems, strong support for Language and Situated Simulations, and no support for Different Representational Frameworks.