Two Talks at EPS Meeting in Reading in July

Reading, UK.

The Word Lab’s Rachael Hulme and Becky Gilbert (who now works as a post-doc at the MRC CBU in Cambridge) will be giving talks at the upcoming Experimental Psychology Society meeting in Reading, 12-14 July 2017.

The details of these talks and links to the abstracts can be found below:

“The Testing Effect in long-term retention from incidental and intentional vocabulary learning” – Rachael C. Hulme and Jennifer M. Rodd (University College London)

“Generalisation of recent word meaning experience across modalities: How we avoid barking up the wrong tree” – Rebecca A. Gilbert1,2, Matthew H. Davis2, M. Gareth Gaskell3, Jennifer M. Rodd1 (1 University College London, 2 MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, 3 University of York)

Further details about the upcoming meeting (when released) can be found here:


New Paper in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience

Jenni Rodd and Matt Davis have just published a new paper in the journal Language, Cognition and Neuoscience, the details of which can be found below:

Title: “How to study spoken language understanding: a survey of neuroscientific methods”

Authors: Jennifer M. Rodd and Matthew H. Davis


The past 20 years have seen a methodological revolution in spoken language research. A diverse range of neuroscientific techniques are now available that allow researchers to observe the brain’s responses to different types of speech stimuli in both healthy and impaired listeners, and also to observe how individuals’ abilities to process speech change as a consequence of disrupting processing in specific brain regions. This special issue provides a tutorial review of the most important of these methods to guide researchers to make informed choices about which methods are best suited to addressing specific questions concerning the neuro-computational foundations of spoken language understanding. This introductory review provides (i) an historical overview of the experimental study of spoken language understanding, (ii) a summary of the key method currently being used by cognitive neuroscientists in this field, and (iii) thoughts on the likely future developments of these methods.

Talk at Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics


Dr Jenni Rodd will be giving a talk entitled “How do we understand what words mean?” at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, The Netherlands on Tuesday 16th May (15:45-17:00).


Being able to understand exactly what each word in a sentence means is an essential component of language comprehension. This is a relatively challenging task because the vast majority of common words have multiple possible interpretations. The conventional view of how listeners/readers disambiguate words with multiple meanings emphasizes just two cues in facilitating access to the correct meaning: (i) the immediate sentence context (i.e. the dog’s/tree’s bark) and (ii) the relative frequencies of the two meanings. Here I propose that fluent comprehension requires that listeners rapidly integrate a far richer set of statistical cues that point to which meaning the speaker was more likely to have intended. Specifically, I present data from both large scale web-based experiments and lab-based experiments that demonstrate that listeners’ make use of (i) their recent and longer-term experience with the ambiguous word itself, and (ii) their knowledge about the linguistic background of the speaker.

Further details are available here:

New Pre-Print Published on Open Science Framework


Eva Poort and Jenni Rodd have a new pre-print published on the Open Science Framework, the details of which can be found below:

Title: “The cognate facilitation effect in bilingual lexical decision is influenced by stimulus list composition”

Authors: Eva D. Poort and Jennifer M. Rodd


Cognates share their form and meaning across languages: “winter” in English means the same as “winter” in Dutch. Research has shown that bilinguals process cognates more quickly than words that exist in one language only (e.g. “ant” in English). This finding is taken as strong evidence for the claim that bilinguals have one integrated lexicon and that lexical access is language non-selective. Two English lexical decision experiments with DutchEnglish bilinguals investigated whether the cognate facilitation effect is influenced by stimulus list composition. In Experiment 1, the ‘classic’ version, which included only cognates, English control words and regular non-words, showed significant cognate facilitation (31 ms). In contrast, the ‘alternative’ version, which also included interlingual homographs, pseudohomophones (instead of regular non-words) and Dutch-only words, showed a significantly different profile: a non-significant disadvantage for the cognates (8 ms). Experiment 2 examined the specific impact of these three additional stimuli types and found that only the inclusion of Dutch words significantly reduced the cognate facilitation effect. Additional exploratory analyses revealed that, when the preceding trial was a Dutch word, cognates were recognised up to 50 ms more slowly than English controls. We suggest that when participants must respond ‘no’ to non-target language words, competition arises between the ‘yes’- and ‘no’-responses associated with the two interpretations of a cognate, which (partially) cancels out the facilitation that is a result of the cognate’s shared form and meaning. We conclude that the cognate facilitation effect is a real effect that originates in the lexicon, but that cognates can be subject to competition effects outside the lexicon.