eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
SINCE 1952
Proceeding cover
of the estonian academy of sciences
ISSN 1736-7530 (Electronic)
ISSN 1736-6046 (Print)
Impact Factor (2020): 1.045

The relationship between visual perception and word meaning structure: an explorative study; pp. 347–353

Full article in PDF format | 10.3176/proc.2021.4S.06

Valeri Murnikov


Visuospatial ability is often considered a distinct nonverbal cognitive function. However, previous studies have suggested that visuospatial abilities are semiotically mediated, and therefore, they cannot be considered completely nonverbal. These studies have shown empirically and theoretically that, for example, higher visuospatial abilities such as visual discrimination and mental rotation are semiotically mediated. In this explorative study, we examined the relationship between word meaning structure and visual perception. This study relies on the results of two tasks obtained from a larger test battery measuring different aspects of speech and cognition. The first task measured visual perception and the ability to inhibit the distracting stimuli; in the second task, we measured the individualsʼ dominant conceptual thought. The sample consisted of 58 native Estonian speakers. The results indicated three different behavioural patterns while solving visual-perceptual tasks. Two of the behavioural patterns relied on verbalization during the process of task solving. The participants who used verbalization had less dominant logical conceptual thought. Theoretically, verbalization suggests that participants find a given task cognitively demanding. The fact that the majority of the participants verbalized the process in connection with word meaning structure supports the idea that visuospatial abilities are not totally nonverbal, but rather semiotically mediated. 


Baddeley, A. 1992. Working memory. Science255, 556–559.

Clark, J. M. and Paivio, A. 1991. Dual coding theory and education. Educ. Psychol. Rev.3(3), 149–210.

Johnson, W. and Bouchard Jr., T. J. 2005. The structure of human intelligence: It is verbal, perceptual, and image rotation (VPR), not fluid and crystallized. Intelligence33(4), 393–416.

Linn, M. and Petersen, A. 1985. Emergence and characterization of sex differences in spatial ability: A meta-analysis. Child Dev.56, 1479–1498.

Luria, A. R. 1969. Higher Cortical Functions in Man and their Disturbances in Local Brain Lesions. 2nd ed. Moscow: Izdatel´stvo Moskovskogo Universiteta, Moscow (in Russian).

Luria, A. R. 1979. Language and Mind. Izdatel´stvo Moskovskogo Universiteta, Moscow (in Russian).

Paivio, A. 1990. Mental Representations: A Dual Coding Approach. Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Poppelreuter, W. 1917. The Psychic Damage Resulting from Head Injury in the War 1914–1916. Voss, Leipzig (in German).

Tammik, V. and Toomela, A. 2013. Relationships between visual figure discrimination, verbal abilities, and gender. Perception42(9), 971–984.

Toomela, A. 2003. Relationships between personality structure, structure of word meaning, and cognitive ability: A study of cultural mechanisms of personality. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol.85(4), 723–735.

Toomela, A. 2008. Variables in psychology: A critique of quantitative psychology. Integr. Psychol. Behav. Sci.42(3), 245–265.

Toomela, A. 2009. How methodology became a toolbox and how it escapes from that box. In Dynamic Process Methodology in the Social and Developmental Sciences (Valsiner, J., Molenaar, P. C. M., Lyra, M. C. D. P. and Chaudhary, N., eds), pp. 45–66, Springer, New York, NY. 10.1007/978-0-387-95922-1_3

Toomela, A. 2016a. Culture, Speech, and My Self. Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, Tallinn.

Toomela, A. 2016b. What are higher psychological functions? Integr. Psychol. Behav. Sci.50, 91–121.

Toomela, A. 2017. The Development of Myself: From a Human Child to a Human. Väike Vanker, Tartu (in Estonian).

Toomela, A., Filho, D. B., Bastos, A. C. S., Chaves, A. M., Ristum, M., Chaves, S. S. and Salomão, S. J. 2019. Studies in the mentality of literates: 1. conceptual structure and aspects of visual perception. Integr. Psychol. Behav. Sci.54, 465–493.

Vygotsky, L. S. 1934. Thinking and Speech. Psychological Investigations. Gosudarstvennoje Social´no-ekonomicheskoje Izdatel´stvo, Moscow (in Russian).

Back to Issue