Show me how you feel: Iconicity and systematicity in visual morphology

L.N. Kendall, Quentin Raffaelli, Rebecca Todd, Alan Kingstone, Neil Cohn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


Visual representations are an ideal place to look at the balance of iconicity and systematicity, given that visual images often look like what they represent but also can be characterized along a scale from highly photorealistic to highly schematic or cartoony. Here we examine the contrast between different styles by presenting participants with “visual morphology” of upfixes—representations like hearts or lightbulbs that float above faces—where the face and/or upfix are either cartoony or photorealistic. Overall, we find that cartoony images, relative to photorealistic images, are easier to process, and therefore demand less attention and facilitate responding. We argue that these results support the view that drawings, and visual morphology, draw on schematic knowledge stored in long-term memory.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOperationalizing Iconicity
EditorsPamela Perniss, Olga Fischer, Christina Ljungberg
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
ISBN (Electronic)9789027261410
ISBN (Print)9789027205100
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameIconicity in Language and Literature series


  • visual morphology
  • Eyetracking
  • emotion
  • visual narrative
  • morphology
  • visual language


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