New Publication! The relationship between sentence comprehension and lexical-semantic retuning

This work, led by Becky Gilbert explores the learning mechanisms by which lexical-semantic knowledge about the relatively likelihoods of the alternative meanings of ambiguous words is updated. Our findings suggest that this form of lexical-semantic retuning is driven by participants’ final interpretation of the word meanings during the prime encounter, regardless of initial meaning activation or misinterpretation.

See here for a fab twitter thread that summarises the key message.

Gilbert, R.A., Davis, M.H., Gaskell, M.G., Rodd, J.M. (2021) The relationship between sentence comprehension and lexical-semantic retuning. Journal of Memory and Language 116, 104188DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2020.104188

New Publication! Recovery from misinterpretations during online sentence processing

This work, led by Lena Blott uses an eye-tracking method to explore how readers recover after they misinterpret sentences that contain ambiguous words.

Blott, L.M., Rodd, J.M., Ferreira, F., Warren, J.E. (2020). Recovery from misinterpretations during online sentence processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Advance online publication. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000936

New Publication. Settling into Semantic Space: An ambiguity-focused account of word-meaning access

This review paper brings together much of the research conducted in the lab over the last 20 years. It presents a new account of word-meaning access that places semantic disambiguation at its core and integrates evidence from a wide variety of experimental approaches to explain this key aspect of language comprehension.

Rodd, J.M. (2020). Settling into semantic space: An ambiguity-focused account of word-meaning access. Perspectives on Psychological Science 15 (2), 411-427. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691619885860

New publication: The Neural Time Course of Semantic Ambiguity Resolution in Speech Comprehension

This work led by Lucy MacGregor (MRC CBU, Cambridge) used combined magnetoencephalography (MEG) and Electroencephalography (EEG) to measure neural responses associated spoken sentences that contained ambiguous words.

MacGregor, L.J., Rodd, J.M., Gilbert, R.A., Hauk,O., Sohoglu, E., Davis, M.H. (2020). The neural time course of semantic ambiguity resolution in speech comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32 (3), 403-425. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_01493

New Paper in Cognition: Contextual priming of word meanings is stabilized over sleep

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This new paper in Cognition by Gareth Gaskell, Scott Cairney and Jenni Rodd shows that sleep-related  consolidation effects can be found for highly familiar linguistic materials. We interpret these findings in terms of a contextual binding account in which all language perception provides a learning opportunity, with sleep and consolidation contributing to the updating of our expectations, ready for the next day

Abstract

Evidence is growing for the involvement of consolidation processes in the learning and retention of language, largely based on instances of new linguistic components (e.g., new words). Here, we assessed whether consolidation effects extend to the semantic processing of highly familiar words. The experiments were based on the word-meaning priming paradigm in which a homophone is encountered in a context that biases interpretation towards the subordinate meaning. The homophone is subsequently used in a word-association test to determine whether the priming encounter facilitates the retrieval of the primed meaning. In Experiment 1 (N = 74), we tested the resilience of priming over periods of 2 and 12 h that were spent awake or asleep, and found that sleep periods were associated with stronger subsequent priming effects. In Experiment 2 (N = 55) we tested whether the sleep benefit could be explained in terms of a lack of retroactive interference by testing participants 24 h after priming. Participants who had the priming encounter in the evening showed stronger priming effects after 24 h than participants primed in the morning, suggesting that sleep makes priming resistant to interference during the following day awake. The results suggest that consolidation effects can be found even for highly familiar linguistic materials. We interpret these findings in terms of a contextual binding account in which all language perception provides a learning opportunity, with sleep and consolidation contributing to the updating of our expectations, ready for the next day.

New Paper by Rachael Hulme on Learning Word Meanings via Naturalistic Stories

This paper in Language Learning describes work from Rachael’s PhD thesis.

Rachael is now a post doc in Jo Taylor’s lab in Aston:

Follow Rachael on Twitter!

Abstract

This study used a Web‐based naturalistic story‐reading paradigm to investigate the impact of number of exposures on incidental acquisition and long‐term retention of new meanings for known words by native English‐speaking adults. Participants read one of four custom written stories in which they encountered novel meanings (e.g., a safe concealed within a piece of furniture) for familiar words (foam). These meanings appeared two, four, six, or eight times in the narrative. Results showed reasonably good memory of the new meanings, assessed by cued recall of novel meanings and word forms, after only two exposures, emphasizing the importance of initial encounters. Accuracy in cued recall of novel meanings showed a linear, incremental increase with more exposures. There was no significant forgetting after 1 week, regardless of the number of exposures during training, demonstrating the efficiency with which adults acquire new word meanings incidentally through reading and retain them over time.

 

 

Preprint: ‘The cost of learning new meanings for familiar words’

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Greg Maciejewski, Jenni Rodd, and collaborators have a new pre-print available on PsyArXiv, the details of which can be found below:

Title: The cost of learning new meanings for familiar words

Authors: Greg Maciejewski, Jennifer M. Rodd, Mark Mon-Williams, and Ekaterini Klepousniotou

Abstract:

Research has shown that adults are highly skilled at learning new words and meanings. Here, we examined whether learning new meanings for familiar words affects the processing of their existing meanings. In Experiments 1 and 2, adult participants learnt new, fictitious meanings for previously unambiguous words (e.g., “sip” denoting a small amount of computer data) through four 30-minute training sessions completed over four consecutive days. We tested participants’ comprehension of existing meanings before and after training using a semantic relatedness decision task in which the probe word was related to the existing but not the new meaning of the trained word (e.g., “sip-juice”). Following the training, responses were slower to the trained, but not to the untrained, words, indicating competition between newly-acquired and well-established meanings. Furthermore, consistent with studies of semantic ambiguity, the effect was smaller for meanings that were semantically related to existing meanings than for the unrelated counterparts, demonstrating that meaning relatedness modulates the degree of competition. Overall, the key findings confirm that new word meanings can be integrated into the mental lexicon after just a few days’ exposure, and provide support for current models of ambiguity that predict semantic competition in word comprehension.

Preprint: ‘Incidental learning and long-term retention of new word meanings from stories: The effect of number of exposures’

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Rachael Hulme, Dasha Barsky, and Jenni Rodd have a new pre-print available on PsyArXiv, the details of which can be found below:

Title: Incidental learning and long-term retention of new word meanings from stories: The effect of number of exposures

Authors: Rachael C. Hulme, Daria Barsky, and Jennifer M. Rodd

Abstract:

This study used a web-based naturalistic story-reading paradigm to investigate the impact of number of exposures on incidental acquisition and long-term retention of new meanings for known words in the native language (L1). Participants read one of four custom-written stories in which they encountered novel meanings (e.g., “a safe concealed within a piece of furniture”) for familiar words (e.g., “foam”). These meanings appeared two, four, six, or eight times in the narrative. The results showed reasonably good memory (assessed by cued recall of (i) novel meanings and (ii) word forms) after only two exposures, emphasising the importance of initial encounters. Accuracy in cued recall of novel meanings showed a linear, incremental increase with more exposures. Interestingly, there was no significant forgetting after one week, regardless of the number of exposures during training. This demonstrates the efficiency with which adults acquire new word meanings in L1 incidentally through reading and retain them well over time.

New Paper: ‘Listeners and Readers Generalize Their Experience With Word Meanings Across Modalities’

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Becky Gilbert, Jenni Rodd, and collaborators have a new paper out (as an online first article) in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. The details of the paper can be found below:

Title: Listeners and Readers Generalize Their Experience With Word Meanings Across Modalities.

Authors: Rebecca A. Gilbert, Matthew H. Davis, Gareth M. Gaskell, and Jennifer M. Rodd

Abstract:

Research has shown that adults’ lexical-semantic representations are surprisingly malleable. For instance, the interpretation of ambiguous words (e.g., bark) is influenced by experience such that recently encountered meanings become more readily available (Rodd et al., 2016, 2013). However, the mechanism underlying this word-meaning priming effect remains unclear, and competing accounts make different predictions about the extent to which information about word meanings that is gained within one modality (e.g., speech) is transferred to the other modality (e.g., reading) to aid comprehension. In two Web-based experiments, ambiguous target words were primed with either written or spoken sentences that biased their interpretation toward a subordinate meaning, or were unprimed. About 20 min after the prime exposure, interpretation of these target words was tested by presenting them in either written or spoken form, using word association (Experiment 1, N = 78) and speeded semantic relatedness decisions (Experiment 2, N = 181). Both experiments replicated the auditory unimodal priming effect shown previously (Rodd et al., 2016, 2013) and revealed significant cross-modal priming: primed meanings were retrieved more frequently and swiftly across all primed conditions compared with the unprimed baseline. Furthermore, there were no reliable differences in priming levels between unimodal and cross-modal prime-test conditions. These results indicate that recent experience with ambiguous word meanings can bias the reader’s or listener’s later interpretation of these words in a modality-general way. We identify possible loci of this effect within the context of models of long-term priming and ambiguity resolution.

New Paper in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

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Hannah Betts and other members of the Word Lab have a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, the details of which can be found below:

Title: Retuning of Lexical-Semantic Representations: Repetition and Spacing Effects in Word-Meaning Priming.

Authors: Hannah N. Betts, Rebecca A. Gilbert, Zhenguang G. Cai, Zainab B. Okedara, & Jennifer M. Rodd

Abstract:

Current models of word-meaning access typically assume that lexical-semantic representations of ambiguous words (e.g., ‘bark of the dog/tree’) reach a relatively stable state in adulthood, with only the relative frequencies of meanings and immediate sentence context determining meaning preference. However, recent experience also affects interpretation: recently encountered word-meanings become more readily available (Rodd et al., 2016, 2013). Here, 3 experiments investigated how multiple encounters with word-meanings influence the subsequent interpretation of these ambiguous words. Participants heard ambiguous words contextually-disambiguated towards a particular meaning and, after a 20- to 30-min delay, interpretations of the words were tested in isolation. We replicate the finding that 1 encounter with an ambiguous word biased the later interpretation of this word towards the primed meaning for both subordinate (Experiments 1, 2, 3) and dominant meanings (Experiment 1). In addition, for the first time, we show cumulative effects of multiple repetitions of both the same and different meanings. The effect of a single subordinate exposure persisted after a subsequent encounter with the dominant meaning, compared to a dominant exposure alone (Experiment 1). Furthermore, 3 subordinate word-meaning repetitions provided an additional boost to priming compared to 1, although only when their presentation was spaced (Experiments 2, 3); massed repetitions provided no such boost (Experiments 1, 3). These findings indicate that comprehension is guided by the collective effect of multiple recently activated meanings and that the spacing of these activations is key to producing lasting updates to the lexical-semantic network.