Researcher of the Month: Lari Vainio

Lari Vainio - kuva: Markku Verkasalo
Photo: Markku Verkasalo


Kielipankki – The Language Bank of Finland is a service for researchers using language resources. University Researcher Lari Vainio tells us about his ongoing research in which he makes use of the Kielipankki resource Psycholinguistic Descriptives.

Who are you?

My name is Lari Vainio. I obtained my PhD at the University of Plymouth (UK) in 2005. After working as a postdoctoral researcher in Plymouth for three years, I returned to Finland in 2008 for a postdoctoral position at University of Helsinki. From 2010 to 2018 I have worked as a lecturer at the University of Helsinki (Department of Psychology and Logopedics). Next two years I will continue my research in HCAS (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies).

What is your research topic?

I have investigated several topics linked to, for example, visual perception, motor and sensory-motor processes, speech, hand movements, number cognition, and integration between hand and mouth actions. Although I have mostly used behavioral methods (e.g., reaction times and psychophysics) in my research, I have also used different research tools of neuroscience such as TMS, fMRI and EEG.

How is your research related to Kielipankki?

My current project explores how motor system contributes to processing semantic information of heard words by using, for example, ‘grip force’ technique. Previous studies have shown that when people are holding a cylinder with an integrated force sensor, and they are simultaneously listening words related (verbs such as write, throw…) to or not related (nouns such as lake, table…) to a manual action, grip force is automatically increased following the verb presentation (e.g., Frak, Nazir, Goyette, Cohen, & Jeannerod, 2010). This finding has been proposed to show that people implicitly simulate meaning of action-words in their motor representations.

The aim of the ongoing study is to investigate whether listening any kinds of verbs that are related to motor effort (e.g., run, jump…) –not only those that are related to manual actions– could trigger this same effect. Eighteen native speakers of Finnish are participating in this study. They are aurally presented with 34 action-neutral nouns, 34 verbs that are related to hand action and 34 verbs that are not related to hand action but that are related to substantial motor effort, while they hold the grip force device. Tatu Huovilainen’s word frequency material Psycholinguistic Descriptives available in Kielipankki was used in this study to select the words for the auditory stimuli. It was important that the average word frequency was approximately the same in each of the three word categories. This aspect was crucial for the study because if, for example, the words in one category would consist of words whose summed frequency would be much greater than in other categories, this might bias the effect in an uncontrollable manner.


The FIN-CLARIN consortium consists of a group of Finnish universities along with CSC – IT Center for Science and the Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus). FIN-CLARIN helps the researchers in Finland to use, to refine, to preserve and to share their language resources. The Language Bank of Finland is the collection of services that provides the language materials and tools for the research community.

All previously published Language Bank researcher interviews are stored in the Researcher of the Month archive.