New Preprint: The role of sleep in learning word meanings from stories

Rachael Hulme and Jenni Rodd looked at how adults integrate new word meanings with existing knowledge when learning new homonyms (e.g. internet-related meaning of “troll”).

link to preprint:

They were interetested in whether sleep plays a role as has previously shown for learning new word forms (e.g. “cathedruke”).

In two experiments adults learned new fictional meanings for low-ambiguity words (e.g., “foam”) through naturalistic story reading. Their memory for the new meanings was tested after 12hrs either including or not including overnight sleep.

They found that a 12hr period including sleep led to better recall and recognition of new word meanings than 12hrs awake. This sleep benefit was specific to when sleep occurred immediately between learning and test, without any extended period of wake in-between. They did not find direct evidence of an active benefit of sleep for consolidating memories of new word meanings; the sleep benefit could be due to the absence of interference from other linguistic input while asleep.

Expt 2 was preregistered, and all materials, data & analysis code are available via the OSF: