New Paper in PeerJ: Learning about the meanings of ambiguous words: evidence from a word-meaning priming paradigm with short narratives

Lena Blott and Jennifer Rodd have published a new paper together with undergraduate researcher Oliver Hartopp and Professor Kate Nation from the University of Oxford.

The paper can be accessed here.

Previous work from the Word Lab has demonstrated that we can prime people such that relatively infrequent meanings of ambiguous words (e.g. the “animal enclosure” meaning of “pen”) become temporarily more readily available. This has been termed “word-meaning priming” (see e.g. Betts et al., 2018; Gilbert et al., 2018; Rodd et al., 2013; Rodd et al., 2016).

For the present experiment, we designed our priming stimuli to be short narratives in which cues to disambiguation were relatively weak, and distant from the ambiguous word itself. We replicated the previously observed word-meaning priming effect with these stimuli, which are, arguably, more naturalistic than the types of sentences typically used in psycholinguistics studies. We hope that this experiment can be a step towards using more naturalistic and varied forms of disambiguation to study how comprehenders can flexibly update their lexical knowledge to aid comprehension.

The study was preregistered. Data and code are available here.