Three experiments were conducted to examine whether spatial iconicity affects semantic-relatedness judgments. Subjects made speeded decisions with regard to whether members of a simultaneously presented word pair were semantically related. In Experiment 1, the words were presented one above the other. In the experimental pair, the words denoted parts of larger objects (e.g., ATTIC-BASEMENT). The words were either in an iconic relation with their referents (e.g., ATTIC presented above BASEMENT) or in a reverse-iconic relation (BASEMENT above ATTIC). The reverse-iconic condition yielded significantly slower semantic-relatedness judgments than did the iconic condition. Experiments 2 and 3 showed that this effect did not occur when the words were presented horizontally, thus ruling out that the iconicity effect is due to the order in which the words are read. Two alternative explanations for this finding are discussed.
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