New paper out: Listening to Radio 4 or going rowing changes access to words meanings

Rowing at the 1988 Summer Olympics. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Several members of the Rodd Lab have recently published an open access article entitled “The impact of recent and long-term experience on access to word meanings: Evidence from large-scale internet-based experiments” in the Journal of Memory and Language.  In a set of large (N=2013) web-based experiments we show how hearing ambiguous words on the radio or while attending a rowing club can change how you later process these words.


Many word forms map onto multiple meanings (e.g., “ace”). The current experiments explore the extent to which adults reshape the lexical–semantic representations of such words on the basis of experience, to increase the availability of more recently accessed meanings. A naturalistic web-based experiment in which primes were presented within a radio programme (Experiment 1; N = 1800) and a lab-based experiment (Experiment 2) show that when listeners have encountered one or two disambiguated instances of an ambiguous word, they then retrieve this primed meaning more often (compared with an unprimed control condition). This word-meaning priming lasts up to 40 min after exposure, but decays very rapidly during this interval. Experiments 3 and 4 explore longer-term word-meaning priming by measuring the impact of more extended, naturalistic encounters with ambiguous words: recreational rowers (N = 213) retrieved rowing-related meanings for words (e.g., “feather”) more often if they had rowed that day, despite a median delay of 8 hours. The rate of rowing-related interpretations also increased with additional years’ rowing experience. Taken together these experiments show that individuals’ overall meaning preferences reflect experience across a wide range of timescales from minutes to years. In addition, priming was not reduced by a change in speaker identity (Experiment 1), suggesting that the phenomenon occurs at a relatively abstract lexical–semantic level. The impact of experience was reduced for older adults (Experiments 1, 3, 4) suggesting that the lexical–semantic representations of younger listeners may be more malleable to current linguistic experience.


Jennifer M. Rodd, , Zhenguang G. Cai, Hannah N. Betts, Betsy Hanby, Catherine Hutchinson, Aviva Adler


Semantic ambiguity; Lexical ambiguity; Perceptual learning; Priming; Comprehension; Web-based experiment


Word Lab Poster at Psycholinguistics in Flanders Conference

Eva will be presenting a poster about her research at the Psycholinguistics in Flanders 2015 conference in Marche En Famenne, Belgium on 21st-22nd May.

The title and a link to the poster can be found below:

‘Processing of cognates and interlingual homographs in L2 is affected by recent experience with these words in L1’ – Eva Poort, Jane Warren and Jennifer Rodd.

PhD Posters at the UCL PPG Cumberland Lodge Conference

Three PhD students in the Word Lab will be presenting posters of their research at the UCL PPG Cumberland Lodge Conference which will take place 27th-28th April. Links to these posters can be found below:


Following the Cumberland Lodge conference this week, we are pleased to announce that Eva was named the runner up in the poster competition. Congratulations, Eva!

New paper in Brain and Language

Localising semantic and syntactic processing in spoken and written language comprehension: An Activation Likelihood Estimation meta-analysis

Jennifer Rodd, Sylvia Vitello, Anna Woollams and Patti Adank


We conducted an Activation Likelihood Estimation (ALE) meta-analysis to identify brain regions that are recruited by linguistic stimuli requiring relatively demanding semantic or syntactic processing. We included 54 functional MRI studies that explicitly varied the semantic or syntactic processing load, while holding constant demands on earlier stages of processing. We included studies that introduced a syntactic/semantic ambiguity or anomaly, used a priming manipulation that specifically reduced the load on semantic/syntactic processing, or varied the level of syntactic complexity. The results confirmed the critical role of the posterior left Inferior Frontal Gyrus (LIFG) in semantic and syntactic processing. These results challenge models of sentence comprehension highlighting the role of anterior LIFG for semantic processing. In addition, the results emphasise the posterior (but not anterior) temporal lobe for both semantic and syntactic processing.


Syntax; Semantics; Neuroimaging; Meta-analysis; Methodology; fMRI

Three New Papers Published

Congratulations to Garry who has recently had three new papers published! Links to the articles can be found below.

Zhenguang Garry Cai, Martin J. Pickering, Ruiming Wang, and Holly P. Branigan (2015) It is there whether you hear it or not: Syntactic representation of missing arguments. Cognition, 136 (March).

Zhenguang Garry Cai and Louise Connell (2015) Space-time interdependence: Evidence against asymmetric mapping between time and space. Cognition, 136 (March).

Ruiming Wang, Xiaoyue Fan, Cong Liu and Zhenguang Garry Cai (in press) Cognitive control and word recognition speed influence the Stroop effect in bilinguals. International Journal of Psychology.


Word Lab Talks at January EPS Meeting

Three members of the word lab will be giving talks at the EPS Meeting which will take place 8-9 January 2015 at the Department of Experimental Psychology at UCL. The titles and authors of the talks are listed below:

  • Zhenguang (Garry) Cai (UCL): ‘Embodied conceptualization in language production’
  • Grzegorz Maciejewski and Jennifer Rodd (UCL): ‘Does meaning acquisition entail meaning competition?’
  • Jennifer Rodd, Zhenguang (Garry) Cai, Matthew Davis, Gareth Gaskell
    (UCL, MRC CBU, Cambridge, University of York): ‘Speaker accent modulates access to word meanings’

Click HERE to see the full programme for the January EPS meeting including abstracts for the talks.