The role of the prefrontal Cortex (PFC) in higher cognitive functions - including working memory, conflict resolution, set shifting and semantic processing - has been demonstrated unequivocally. Despite the great heterogeneity among tasks measuring these phenotypes, due in part to the different cognitive sub-processes implied and the specificity of the stimulus material used, there is agreement that all of these tasks recruit an executive control system located in the PFC. On a biochemical level it is known that the dopaminergic (...) system plays an important role in executive control functions. Evidence comes from molecular genetics relating the functional COMT Val158Met polymorphism to working memory and set shifting. In order determine whether this pattern of findings generalises to linguistic and semantic processing, we investigated the effects of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism in lexical decision making using masked and unmasked versions of the semanticpriming paradigm on N=104 healthy subjects. Although we observed strong priming effects in all conditions (masked priming, unmasked priming with short/long stimulus asynchronies (SOAs), direct and indirect priming), COMT was not significantly related to masked priming, suggesting no reliable influence on semantic processing. However, COMT Val158Met was strongly associated with lexical decision latencies in all priming conditions if considered separately, explaining between 9 to 14.5 % of the variance. Therefore, the findings indicate that COMT mainly influences more general executive control functions in the PFC supporting the speed of lexical decisions. (shrink)
Semanticpriming has been a focus of research in the cognitive sciences for more than 30 years and is commonly used as a tool for investigating other aspects of perception and cognition, such as word recognition, language comprehension, and knowledge representations. SemanticPriming: Perspectives from Memory and Word Recognition examines empirical and theoretical advancements in the understanding of semanticpriming, providing a succinct, in-depth review of this important phenomenon, framed in terms of models of (...) memory and models of word recognition. The first section examines models of semanticpriming, including spreading activation models, the verification model, compound-cue models, distributed network models, and multistage activation models (e.g. interactive-activation model). The second section examines issues and findings that have played an especially important role in testing models of priming and includes chapters on the following topics: methodological issues (e.g. counterbalancing of materials, choice of priming baselines); automatic vs. strategic priming; associative vs. "pure" semanticpriming; mediated priming; long-term semanticpriming; backward priming; unconscious priming; the prime-task effect; list context effects; effects of word frequency, stimulus quality, and stimulus repetition; and the cognitive neuroscience of semanticpriming. The book closes with a summary and a discussion of promising new research directions. The volume will be of interest to a wide range of researchers and students in the cognitive sciences and neurosciences. (shrink)
We examined the time course of cross-language activation during word recognition in the context of semanticpriming with interlingual homographs. Spanish-English bilinguals were presented pairs of English words visually one word at a time and judged whether the two words were related in meaning while recording event-related potentials (ERPs). Interlingual homographs (e.g., “pie”) appeared in the target position and were preceded by primes that were either related to the English meaning (e.g., “apple”), related to the Spanish meaning of (...) interlingual homographs (e.g., “toe”) or totally unrelated (e.g., “floor”/“bed”). Spanish-English bilinguals showed semanticpriming not only when interlingual homographs were related to the English meaning but also to the Spanish meaning of the prime. These priming effects were detectable in the mean amplitude of the N400 (350-500 ms) even when the target word was related to the prime in Spanish and the context of the experiment was English. However, the relatedness effect survived into the window of a late positive component, LPC (550-700 ms) only for stimulus pairs related in English. To verify that the observed pattern of the results was due to participants’ bilingualism, we also tested a group of English monolinguals. The monolinguals showed a semanticpriming effect for the N400 and LPC time windows only when interlingual homographs were related to the English meaning. These results suggest that both languages are activated in the classical time frame of semantic activation indexed by N400 modulations, but that semantic activation in the non-target language is subsequently inhibited. (shrink)
Using a cross-modal semanticpriming paradigm, both experiments of the present study investigated the link between the mental representations of iconic gestures and words. Two groups of the participants performed a primed lexical decision task where they had to discriminate between visually presented words and nonwords (e.g., flirp). Word targets (e.g., bird) were preceded by video clips depicting either semantically related (e.g., pair of hands flapping) or semantically unrelated (e.g., drawing a square with both hands) gestures. The duration (...) of gestures was on average 3,500 ms in Experiment 1 but only 1,000 ms in Experiment 2. Significant priming effects were observed in both experiments, with faster response latencies for related gesture–word pairs than unrelated pairs. These results are consistent with the idea of interactions between the gestural and lexical representational systems, such that mere exposure to iconic gestures facilitates the recognition of semantically related words. (shrink)
Subjects classified visible 2-digit numbers as larger or smaller than 55. Target numbers were preceded by masked 2-digit primes that were either congruent (same relation to 55) or incongruent. Experiments 1 and 2 showed prime congruency effects for stimuli never included in the set of classified visible targets, indicating subliminal priming based on long-term semantic memory. Experiments 2 and 3 went further to demonstrate paradoxical unconscious priming effects resulting from task context. For example, after repeated practice classifying (...) 73 as larger than 55, the novel masked prime 37 paradoxically facilitated the “larger” response. In these experiments task context could induce subjects to unconsciously process only the leftmost masked prime digit, only the rightmost digit, or both independently. Across 3 experiments, subliminal priming was governed by both task context and long-term semantic memory. (shrink)
To date it is unclear whether (1) awareness-independent non-evaluative semantic processes influence affective semantics and whether (2) awareness-independent affective semantics influence non-evaluative semantic processing. In the current study, we investigated these questions with the help of subliminal (masked) primes and visible targets in a space-valence across-category congruence effect. In line with (1), we found that subliminal space prime words influenced valence classification of supraliminal target words (Experiment 1): Classifications were faster with a congruent prime (e.g., the prime ‘up’ (...) before the target ‘happy’) than with an incongruent prime (e.g., the prime ‘up’ before the target ‘sad’). In contrast to (2), no influence of subliminal valence primes on the classification of supraliminal space targets into up- and down-words was found (Experiment 2). Control conditions showed that standard masked response-priming effects were found with both subliminal prime types, and that an across-category congruence effect was also found with supraliminal valence primes and spatial target words. The final Experiment 3 confirmed that the across-category congruence effect indeed reflected priming of target categorization of a relevant meaning category. Together, the data jointly confirmed prediction (1) that awareness-independent non-evaluative semanticpriming influences valence judgments. (shrink)
Features of semantic prosody -- The evaluative and the hidden -- The diachronic and the synchronic -- Semantic prosody and lexical environment -- Semantic prosody and corpus data -- Semantic prosody and the concordance -- Intuition, introspection, and corpus data -- Semantic prosody and lexical priming.
What mechanisms underlie children’s language production? Structural priming—the repetition of sentence structure across utterances—is an important measure of the developing production system. We propose its mechanism in children is the same as may underlie analogical reasoning: structure-mapping. Under this view, structural priming is the result of making an analogy between utterances, such that children map semantic and syntactic structure from previous to future utterances. Because the ability to map relationally complex structures develops with age, younger children are (...) less successful than older children at mapping both semantic and syntactic relations. Consistent with this account, 4-year-old children showed priming only of semantic relations when surface similarity across utterances was limited, whereas 5-year-olds showed priming of both semantic and syntactic structure regardless of shared surface similarity. The priming of semantic structure without syntactic structure is uniquely predicted by the structure-mapping account because others have interpreted structural priming as a reflection of developing syntactic knowledge. (shrink)
Previous studies have shown that iconic gestures presented in an isolated manner prime visually presented semantically related words. Since gestures and speech are almost always produced together, this study examined whether iconic gestures accompanying speech would prime words and compared the priming effect of iconic gestures with speech to that of iconic gestures presented alone. Adult participants (N=180) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions in a lexical decision task: Gestures-Only (the primes were iconic gestures presented alone); Speech-Only (...) (the primes were auditory tokens conveying the same meaning as the iconic gestures); Gestures-Accompanying-Speech (the primes were the simultaneous coupling of iconic gestures and their corresponding auditory tokens). Our findings revealed significant priming effects in all three conditions. However, the priming effect in the Gestures-Accompanying-Speech condition was comparable to that in the Speech-Only condition and was significantly weaker than that in the Gestures-Only condition, suggesting that the facilitatory effect of iconic gestures accompanying speech may be constrained by the level of language processing required in the lexical decision task where linguistic processing of words forms is more dominant than semantic processing. Hence, the priming effect afforded by the co-speech iconic gestures was weakened. (shrink)
We analyze some of the recent evidence for unconscious semantic access stemming from tasks that, although based on a priming procedure, generate semantic congruity effects because of response competition, not semanticpriming effects. We argue that such effects cannot occur without at least some glimpses of awareness about the identity and the meaning of a significant proportion of the primes.
Conceptual primitives and semantic universals are the cornerstones of a semantic theory which Anna Wierzbicka has been developing for many years. Semantics: Primes and Universals is a major synthesis of her work, presenting a full and systematic exposition of that theory in a non-technical and readable way. It delineates a full set of universal concepts, as they have emerged from large-scale investigations across a wide range of languages undertaken by the author and her colleagues. On the basis of (...) empirical cross-linguistic studies it vindicates the old notion of the "psychic unity of mankind", while at the same time offering a framework for the rigorous description of different languages and cultures. (shrink)