The Word Lab is currently researching the following specific 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 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 word is led by César Gutiérrez.


  1. What are the contributions of sleep and memory consolidation to language comprehension?

It is now well-established that sleep, plasticity, and memory consolidation mechanisms are crucial for successful adult communication, particularly for learning novel items such as a new words. This project extends this work to explore the contributions of sleep and memory consolidation in helping us to refine the mental representations of familiar words to ensure optimal future comprehension.

This work is led by Prof Gareth Gaskell at the University of York and is funded by the ESRC.