The Word Lab is currently researching the following questions:

  1. Why are some people better than others at understanding ambiguous words in context?

We are currently developing experimental measures to capture individual differences in the ability to fluently process ambiguous words within narratives contexts. Our aim is to then use these measures to explore the cognitive factors that drive individual differences in this important aspect of language comprehension.

This work is led by Dr Lena Blott with able assistance from Anna Gowenlock, and is in collaboration with Prof Kate Nation (University of Oxford). It is funded by the ESRC

  1. How do adults improve their ability to process low-frequency word meanings

Low-frequency word meanings can be very effortful to understand (e.g, the ‘animal enclosure’ meaning of ‘pen’). In this project we explore how repeated experience with these meanings can help to aid comprehension of these tricky words. We aim to better understand the processes by which people improve their comprehension on the basis of their ongoing experience with their native language

This work is led by César Gutiérrez in collaboration with Dr Jo Taylor

  1. What factors contribute to the development of high quality lexical representations?

It is now well-established that high quality lexical knowledge is key to successful language processing. But less is known about the factors that facilitate the development of such high quality knowledge. We are developing paradigms in which adults learn new words under different experimental conditions to better understand these processes

This work is led by Dr Rachael Hulme with able assistance from Anna Gowenlock. It is funded by the ESRC.

  1. How can games improve vocabulary learning in teenagers?

Games that be played on computers, tablets and phones are increasingly being used within educational settings. We are currently developing a novel game that will teach science-related vocabulary to secondary school children. We will test whether explore the impact of various theory-driven parameters on their learning success.

This work is led by Sidharth Prabu-Naik in collaboration with Cauldron Science. It is funded by the ESRC and by Cauldron Science.

  1. How does the influence of existing knowledge on word learning change across the lifespan?

It is well established that people’s ability to learn new words is influenced by their existing knowledge of words with similar forms or meanings. Learning can be boosted by prior knowledge of words with similar form-to-meaning mappings, but can be hindered by inconsistent knowledge. Here we explore how these effects, previously observed in younger adults might change in older adults who have greater lexical experience from their lifetime of linguistic experience.

This work is led by Po-Heng Chen in collaboration with Dr. Chia-Lin Lee (National Taiwan University). It is funded by the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology.