Article Approved for Entry to the Preregistration Challenge


Eva Poort’s preregistered article entitled ‘The cognate facilitation effect in bilingual lexical decision is influenced by task demands’ has been approved by the Centre for Open Science for entry into the Preregistration Challenge (Experiment 2 of the paper was preregistered through the Open Science Framework). Eva is eligible to win a $1000 award in the next awards round on January 1, 2018.

Eva was recently interviewed about her first experience of preregistration, you can read the interview in full here: The “Preregistration Challenge” – Interview with Eva Poort


New Paper in Cognitive Psychology – Accent Modulates Access to Word Meaning


Zhenguang (Garry) Cai and other members of the Word Lab have a new paper in the journal Cognitive Psychology, the details of which can be found below:

Title: Accent modulates access to word meaning: Evidence for a speaker-model account of spoken word recognition

Authors: Zhenguang G. Cai, Rebecca A. Gilbert, Matthew H. Davis, M. Gareth Gaskell, Lauren Farrar, Sarah Adler, and Jennifer M. Rodd.


Speech carries accent information relevant to determining the speaker’s linguistic and social background. A series of web-based experiments demonstrate that accent cues can modulate access to word meaning. In Experiments 1–3, British participants were more likely to retrieve the American dominant meaning (e.g., hat meaning of “bonnet”) in a word association task if they heard the words in an American than a British accent. In addition, results from a speeded semantic decision task (Experiment 4) and sentence comprehension task (Experiment 5) confirm that accent modulates on-line meaning retrieval such that comprehension of ambiguous words is easier when the relevant word meaning is dominant in the speaker’s dialect. Critically, neutral-accent speech items, created by morphing British- and American-accented recordings, were interpreted in a similar way to accented words when embedded in a context of accented words (Experiment 2). This finding indicates that listeners do not use accent to guide meaning retrieval on a word-by-word basis; instead they use accent information to determine the dialectic identity of a speaker and then use their experience of that dialect to guide meaning access for all words spoken by that person. These results motivate a speaker-model account of spoken word recognition in which comprehenders determine key characteristics of their interlocutor and use this knowledge to guide word meaning access.

New Word Lab Paper in Acta Psychologica


Eva Poort and Jenni Rodd have a new paper published in Acta Psychologica, the details of which can be found below:

Title: “The cognate facilitation effect in bilingual lexical decision is influenced by stimulus list composition”

Authors: Eva D. Poort and Jennifer M. Rodd


Cognates share their form and meaning across languages: “winter” in English means the same as “winter” in Dutch. Research has shown that bilinguals process cognates more quickly than words that exist in one language only (e.g. “ant” in English). This finding is taken as strong evidence for the claim that bilinguals have one integrated lexicon and that lexical access is language non-selective. Two English lexical decision experiments with Dutch–English bilinguals investigated whether the cognate facilitation effect is influenced by stimulus list composition. In Experiment 1, the ‘standard’ version, which included only cognates, English control words and regular non-words, showed significant cognate facilitation (31 ms). In contrast, the ‘mixed’ version, which also included interlingual homographs, pseudohomophones (instead of regular non-words) and Dutch-only words, showed a significantly different profile: a non-significant disadvantage for the cognates (8 ms). Experiment 2 examined the specific impact of these three additional stimuli types and found that only the inclusion of Dutch words significantly reduced the cognate facilitation effect. Additional exploratory analyses revealed that, when the preceding trial was a Dutch word, cognates were recognised up to 50 ms more slowly than English controls. We suggest that when participants must respond ‘no’ to non-target language words, competition arises between the ‘yes’- and ‘no’-responses associated with the two interpretations of a cognate, which (partially) cancels out the facilitation that is a result of the cognate’s shared form and meaning. We conclude that the cognate facilitation effect is a real effect that originates in the lexicon, but that cognates can be subject to competition effects outside the lexicon.

New Preprint on OSF: ‘Retuning of lexical-semantic representations: Repetition and spacing effects in word-meaning priming’


Hannah Betts, Jenni Rodd, and other Word Lab members have a new pre-print published on the Open Science Framework, 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, Becky A. Gilbert, Zhenguang Garry Cai, Zainab B. Okedara, and Jennifer M. Rodd


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 the meanings in the language 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, three experiments investigated how multiple encounters with word-meanings influence the subsequent interpretation of these words. Participants heard ambiguous words contextually-disambiguated towards a particular meaning and, after a 20-30 minute delay, interpretations of the words were tested in isolation. We replicate the finding that one encounter with an ambiguous word biased 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, three subordinate word-meaning repetitions provided an additional boost to priming compared to one, 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.

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:

Two Talks at EPS Meeting in Reading in July

Reading, UK.

The Word Lab’s Rachael Hulme and Becky Gilbert (who now works as a post-doc at the MRC CBU in Cambridge) will be giving talks at the upcoming Experimental Psychology Society meeting in Reading, 12-14 July 2017.

The details of these talks and links to the abstracts can be found below:

“The Testing Effect in long-term retention from incidental and intentional vocabulary learning” – Rachael C. Hulme and Jennifer M. Rodd (University College London)

“Generalisation of recent word meaning experience across modalities: How we avoid barking up the wrong tree” – Rebecca A. Gilbert1,2, Matthew H. Davis2, M. Gareth Gaskell3, Jennifer M. Rodd1 (1 University College London, 2 MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, 3 University of York)

Further details about the upcoming meeting (when released) can be found here:

New Paper in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience

Jenni Rodd and Matt Davis have just published a new paper in the journal Language, Cognition and Neuoscience, the details of which can be found below:

Title: “How to study spoken language understanding: a survey of neuroscientific methods”

Authors: Jennifer M. Rodd and Matthew H. Davis


The past 20 years have seen a methodological revolution in spoken language research. A diverse range of neuroscientific techniques are now available that allow researchers to observe the brain’s responses to different types of speech stimuli in both healthy and impaired listeners, and also to observe how individuals’ abilities to process speech change as a consequence of disrupting processing in specific brain regions. This special issue provides a tutorial review of the most important of these methods to guide researchers to make informed choices about which methods are best suited to addressing specific questions concerning the neuro-computational foundations of spoken language understanding. This introductory review provides (i) an historical overview of the experimental study of spoken language understanding, (ii) a summary of the key method currently being used by cognitive neuroscientists in this field, and (iii) thoughts on the likely future developments of these methods.