New Preprint: Effect of Contextual Diversity on Word Learning

A new preprint By Rachael Hulme, Anisha Begum, Kate Nation and Jenni Rodd looks at how contextual diversity affects early stages of word learning.

Diversity of narrative context disrupts the early stage of learning the meanings of novel words

There’s an important distinction between ‘situational diversity’ (i.e. the context in which words occur) and ‘heterogeneity’ (i.e. polysemy/diversity in words’ meanings). These typically co-occur in natural language, so we wanted to tease contextual diversity apart from polysemy.

Adults learned new words and their meanings by reading paragraphs with either five different narrative contexts or a single coherent narrative context. We controlled the semantic features of word meanings across conditions to avoid influences from polysemy.

Diversity of narrative context did not affect word-form learning but disrupted learning of word meanings – more semantic features were correctly recalled for words learned in a single coherent narrative context.

So in the early stages of learning meanings of new words, learning is boosted by anchoring them to a single coherent narrative discourse. The temporary representations that are built to support discourse comprehension may play an important role in supporting word learning.

The expt was preregistered, and materials, data & analysis code are available via OSF:

Here’s a poster summary of this research:

New Paper: The Interaction between the two Languages of Bilingual Speakers

This priming study was led by Dr Eva Poort, looking at how very recent experience with words (including cognates and interlingual homographs) in the L2 of Dutch-English bilinguals influenced their processing of related words in their L1.

Poort, E. D, & Rodd, J. M. (2022). Cross-lingual priming of cognates and interlingual homographs from L2 to L1. Glossa Psycholinguistics, 1(1).

This work follows up earlier work by Eva on this topic:

Poort, E.D., Rodd, J.M. (2019). Towards a distributed connectionist account of cognates and interlingual homographs: evidence from semantic relatedness tasks. PeerJ. 7:e6725

Poort, E. D., & Rodd, J. M. (2017). The cognate facilitation effect in bilingual lexical decision is influenced by stimulus list composition. Acta Psychologica, 180, 52-63.

Poort, E. D., Warren, J. E.,& Rodd, J. M. (2016). Recent experience with cognates and interlingual homographs in one language affects subsequent processing in another language. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 19 (1), 206-212.

New Paper: Word-meaning priming extends beyond homonyms

This paper, which was led by Adam Curtis (Univeristy of York) as part of an ESRC grant awarded to Prof Gareth Gaskell (York) and Prof Jenni Rodd (UCL) has been published in Cognition and can be accessed here.

In three pre-registered experiments, participants were exposed to non-homonym targets (e.g., “balloon”) in sentences that biased interpretation towards a specific aspect of the word’s meaning (e.g., balloon‑helium vs. balloon-float). After a ~ 10–30 min delay access to the primed aspect of the word’s meaning was enhanced.

These findings show that similar ‘word-meaning priming’ effects, that had previously only been shown for homonyms (e.g., bark-dog vs bark-tree) are far more general than previously thought, and sugest that episodic sentence memory plays a key role in comprehension.

Word Lab visit Experimental Psychology Society

In March 2022 most of the lab travelled to Keele University for the meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society. This was our first in-person conference since the start of COVID. It was really lovely to see so many familiar faces and of course to get to know some new ones.

Rebecca Norman presented her work on how contextual diversity during word learning through reading benefits generalisation of learned
meanings to new contexts.

Po-Heng (Bobby) Chen presented some EEG work conducted with Kara Federmeier (University of Illinoisa) and Chia-Lin Lee (National Taiwan University: Reprioritizing the weaker meaning enhances the post-N400 frontal positivity.

See here for the full programme and abstracts.