Conference Presentation: Experimental Psychology Society, January 2021

Reading rich semantic sentences to improve disambiguation skills in adults

César Gutiérrez Silva, Joanne Taylor, Lena Blott & Jennifer Rodd

University College London

In English most words have multiple meanings and research shows that single encounters with one meaning can increase subsequent usage. We evaluated how more naturalistic exposure including both dominant and subordinate ambiguous word meanings influences subsequent processing. 60 native English speakers were recruited online. They read and answered questions about sentences from the British National Corpus: two sentences for 14 ambiguous words, one including the dominant and one the subordinate meaning, and two sentences for 14 unambiguous words. In a subsequent semantic relatedness task, participants evaluated if probe words were related in meaning to target words. Probes included trained and untrained items, and ambiguous word probes either related to the dominant or subordinate meaning of targets. Judgements were faster and more accurate to target words that were related to probe word subordinate meanings for trained relative to untrained items. Training did not influence processing of dominant meanings of ambiguous words or unambiguous words. This study supports the idea that lexical-semantic representations of ambiguous words are highly flexible. Even when coupled with exposure to the dominant meaning, subordinate word meaning processing can be improved. Future work will explore the durabilityof this effect and whether it transfers between spoken and written language.

See here for a link to the programme.

Ambiguity as (Information) Gaps: Processes of Creation and Resolution

Jenni Rodd is an invited speaker at this event on 16/17 November 2018 in the University of Tübingen, Germany.

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Title: The role of learning mechanisms in understanding ambiguous words


Lexical-semantic knowledge continues to be shaped by personal linguistic experience throughout the lifespan. Not only must new unfamiliar word meanings be integrated into the lexicon, but recent linguistic experiences with familiar word meanings also continues to reshape lexical knowledge. These learning mechanism are vital to supporting skilled, fluent word-meaning disambiguation.



Rachael Hulme Talk at BAAL Vocab SIG Conference


Rachael Hulme recently gave a talk at the British Association for Applied Linguistics–Vocabulary Special Interest Group (BAAL Vocab SIG) conference that took place 9-10 July 2018 at the UCL Institute of Education in London. She was awarded a prize for the joint best student presentation. The title and abstract of the talk can be found below:

Title: Tests assist adults’ learning of new meanings for familiar L1 words from stories.

Abstract: Adults often learn new meanings for familiar words, for example due to language evolving with changes in technology (e.g., the internet-related meaning of “troll”), or when learning a new subject/activity (e.g., the sailing term “boom”). The present studies use a naturalistic web-based story-reading paradigm to examine adults’ incidental acquisition and long-term retention of novel, artificial meanings for familiar words. Our previous research on this topic found remarkably little forgetting of word meanings between immediate tests and delayed tests one day or even one week after training.
Experiment 1 investigated whether testing participants immediately after training contributed to this good long-term retention, and whether this ‘testing effect’ differs between incidental and intentional learning. Participants (N=99) learned new meanings for existing words incidentally through story reading, and intentionally through a definition learning task. They were then tested immediately (without feedback) on half the items. After 24 hours, memory was better for items that had been tested immediately compared with those that had not. This testing effect was non-significantly larger for incidental than intentional learning.
Experiment 2 compared two methods of immediate test: cued recall and recognition. Participants (N=98) learned new meanings for familiar words incidentally through reading stories, and were tested immediately on half the items with either a cued recall or recognition test. They were tested on all items 24 hours later using both test methods. Memory was better for items that were previously tested using either method than for those that had not been tested; the difference was non-significantly larger for the recognition test. The testing effect also generalised across test tasks.
These findings have important implications for word learning studies that compare memory between two test points. This research also emphasises the key role that testing can play in learning new vocabulary from storybooks in educational settings.

Further information about the BAAL Vocab SIG can be found here:

Symposium at EPS/CSBBCS Conference in St. John’s, Canada 4-7 July 2018

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Dr Jenni Rodd has organised a symposium entitled ‘Accessing the Meanings of Words: Perspectives on Lexical Ambiguity’ for the upcoming joint meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society and the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science. The conference will take place 4-7 July 2018 in St. John’s, Canada.

A preliminary schedule including details on the talks in the symposium can be found here: BBCS_2018_Talk_and_Poster_Schedule.pdf

Symposium at Recent Meeting of the Psychonomic Society

Symposium speakers at the International Meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Dr Jenni Rodd organised a symposium entitled ‘Learning Words from Experience: The Emergence of Lexical Quality’ at the recently-held International Meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Amsterdam.

Details of the talks that were included in the symposium can be found here:

Word Lab Members Presenting at AMLaP 2017


Members of The Word Lab will be presenting their research at the upcoming Architectures and Mechanisms of Language Processing (AMLaP) conference, which takes place 7-9 September 2017 in Lancaster.

Rachael Hulme will be presenting a poster, Becky Gilbert (who now works as a post-doc at the MRC CBU in Cambridge) will be giving a talk, and Lucy MacGregor (a researcher at the MRC CBU in Cambridge who has been collaborating with Jenni Rodd) will also be giving a talk.

Titles and links to the abstracts can be found below:

‘Acquisition and Long-Term Retention of New Meanings for Known Words’ – Rachael C. Hulme, Daria Barsky, and Jennifer M. Rodd (University College London). For a pdf of the poster click HERE.

‘Sentence-level learning mechanisms support lexical-semantic retuning during ambiguity resolution’ – Rebecca A. Gilbert1,2, Matthew H. Davis2, M. Gareth Gaskell3, Jennifer M. Rodd1 (1 University College London, 2 MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 3 University of York)

‘Neurocognitive mechanisms of semantic ambiguity resolution’ – Lucy J. MacGregor1, Jennifer M. Rodd2, Olaf Hauk1, Ediz Sohoglu1 and Matthew H. Davis1 (1 MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, 2 University College London)

Further information about the AMLaP 2017 conference can be found here:

Word Lab Talk and Poster at CogSci 2017


Dr Jenni Rodd will be giving a talk and Lena Blott will be presenting a poster at the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, which will take place in London 26-29 July 2017.

Titles and links to the abstracts can be found below:

‘The role of learning mechanisms in understanding spoken words’ – Jennifer M. Rodd1, Rebecca A. Gilbert1,2, Hannah N. Betts1, Matthew H. Davis2, and M. Gareth Gaskell3

(1Department of Experimental Psychology, University College London, 2MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 3University of York)

The slides for Jenni’s talk are available HERE.

‘Language Modality Affects Responses in Left IFG during Processing of Semantically Ambiguous Sentences’ – Lena M. Blott1, Jennifer M. Rodd2, and Jane E. Warren1

(1Department of Language and Cognition, University College London ; 2Department of Experimental Psychology, University College London

Further details about the meeting can be found here: