Rachael is a PhD Student in Experimental Psychology
I am broadly interested in the areas of language acquisition and semantic processing. My PhD focuses on how we learn new meanings for words that already exist in our mental lexicon. As language is constantly evolving, we must often learn new meanings for old words such as ‘tweet’ (bird call vs. social media message). Importantly, new meanings for previously unambiguous words can be acquired whilst preserving the existing meaning, however little is known about the cognitive processes involved in achieving this. My research therefore examines how new word meanings become integrated with existing meanings in the semantic system, and what factors affect this process. In particular I am investigating whether overnight consolidation during sleep plays an important role in learning new word meanings, as has previously been shown for the learning of new word forms.