Papers We’re Reading: 2019

This is a place where members of the lab can write up short notes about the papers that they have read (and found useful).

  1. Learning Words Via Reading: Contextual Diversity, Spacing, and Retrieval Effects in Adults

New paper from and

Nice paper! Careful experimental design looking at how contextual diversity, temporal spacing, and retrieval opportunity influence adult learning of meanings of rare words (eg glaucous) during silent sentence reading. Eye-tracking measures during training and test.

Key finding: Repeated presentation of word in the SAME sentence context produces faster reading of that word during learning, but then slower reading of then target word in later, neutral test context.

Interpretation: Contextual variation during learning produces lexical representations that are either: – more context independent – of enhanced quality. Either way, the word becomes easier to identify/retrieve and integrate into new (neutral) sentence.

Key limitation: Use of repeated presentation of the same exact sentence in ‘low diversity’ is problematic –  the authors note we need complementary studies that vary contextual diversity without using verbatim repetition.





Small Grant from the Experimental Psychology Society

Jenni Rodd and Eva Poort  have been awarded a small grant by the Experimental Psychology Society to “Develop a Reliable Measure of Cross-Language Priming”.

They hope to resolve some of the puzzling aspects of their previous work on this topic reported here:


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.

Image result for tuebingen university

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.



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


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


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!


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.



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:

Jenni Rodd to Give Talk at Workshop on Ambiguity at the University of Tübingen

University of Tübingen, Germany

Dr Jenni Rodd will be giving a talk at an international workshop on ‘Ambiguity as (Information) Gaps: Processes of Creation and Resolution’. The workshop will take place at the University of Tübingen, Germany on 16-17 November 2018.

Details about the workshop can be found here: