When preparing to name an object, semantic knowledge about the object and its attributes is activated, including perceptual properties. It is unclear, however, whether semantic attribute activation contributes to lexical access or is a consequence of activating a concept irrespective of whether that concept is to be named or not. In this study, we measured neural responses using fMRI while participants named objects that are typically green or red, presented in black line drawings. Furthermore, participants underwent two other tasks with the same objects, color naming and semantic judgment, to see if the activation pattern we observe during picture naming is (a) similar to that of a task that requires accessing the color attribute and (b) distinct from that of a task that requires accessing the concept but not its name or color. We used representational similarity analysis to detect brain areas that show similar patterns within the same color category, but show different patterns across the two color categories. In all three tasks, activation in the bilateral fusiform gyri (“Human V4”) correlated with a representational model encoding the red–green distinction weighted by the importance of color feature for the different objects. This result suggests that when seeing objects whose color attribute is highly diagnostic, color knowledge about the objects is retrieved irrespective of whether the color or the object itself have to be named.

You do not currently have access to this content.