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Title: Retuning lexical-semantic representations on the basis of recent experience
Author: Betts, H. N.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 4645
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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Classic studies on ambiguous words (e.g. ‘bark’ – dog/tree) imply that comprehenders’ lexical-semantic representations remain relatively stable across time. However, recent research has shown that a single encounter with a particular word-meaning biases interpretation up to 20 minutes later (“word-meaning priming”), suggesting that representations update to reflect recent experience. Nine experiments in this thesis investigate in detail the effects of recent experience on the comprehension of ambiguous words. Using word association, Chapter 2 replicates the single-encounter subordinate priming effect and shows that this effect is reduced by a subsequent dominant meaning encounter. Three recent subordinate encounters boost priming compared to a single encounter but only when encounters are temporally spaced; massed encounters seem to provide no such boost. Chapter 3 assesses a newly-developed semantic relatedness test of word-meaning availability effects on comprehension, using picture probes. It shows that, compared to word association, semantic relatedness can detect dominance with the additional benefit of testing dominant and subordinate meaning availabilities independently. Chapter 4 shows that this semantic relatedness test can detect single-encounter word-meaning priming and that this effect is driven by increased availability of the primed meaning, not decreased availability of the unprimed meaning. Furthermore, an additional priming boost from three repetitions reflects an increase in primed meaning availability for both massed and spaced repetitions, with an additional decrease in unprimed meaning availability after spaced repetitions only; there was no evidence that massed repetitions reduced unprimed availability. Possible mechanisms are discussed that account for these different repetition priming patterns observed with semantic relatedness and word association tests. The findings suggest that the word-meaning priming effect might be driven by episodic memory and consolidated lexical-semantic representations. Taken together, these experiments confirm that recent experience plays a key role in retuning lexical-semantic representations and can help to refine our theoretical accounts of this important phenomenon.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available