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Studies for Adults

Submitted by pexman on Mon, 10/22/2007 - 5:23pm

A brief overview of our research:

Language is a uniquely human capacity, and one that is essential to our mental and social lives. Despite its importance, we do not yet have a complete cognitive or neural explanation for key aspects of language. In our research we focus on one such aspect: When you encounter a word, how does its meaning come to mind? Word meaning retrieval is a key component process in reading, listening, and other skills that involve language understanding. To investigate semantic processing we capitalize on two facts: a) there is variability in the meaning or semantic information associated with different words, and b) there are behavioural and neural consequences of this variability. Words vary in the richness of their meanings, and one can define semantic richness in many different ways, and as a function of many different conceptualizations of semantics. For instance, by studying the effects of words’ sensorimotor richness we can test semantic frameworks that propose that sensorimotor information is an essential aspect of how we represent and retrieve word meanings. While such frameworks show promise in explaining how we understand the meanings of concrete words, like truck, that can be experienced through the senses, they struggle to explain how it is that we understand the meanings of more abstract words, like truth. Much of the previous research on semantic richness effects has tended to focus on processing of concrete nouns, yet these words represent less than half of our vocabulary. Explaining how more abstract meanings (abstract nouns, verbs) are acquired and represented is a challenge for most of the leading semantic theories and one that we are tackling in our research. We use a range of tasks and procedures, including well-established paradigms (e.g., lexical and semantic decision tasks, EEG) as well as emerging and innovative methods (e.g., the megastudy approach, gesture capture and priming), to investigate important questions about how we derive meaning from language.

To participate in our studies for adults, access the Department of Psychology Research Participation System here.

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