The on-line interpretation of utterances in discourse contexts was investigated by varying the type of dependency between an utterance and its context. Listeners heard short sequences of utterances ending in incomplete fragments. The fragments varied in length and in whether their anaphoric linkage to the context (by repeated names, pronouns or zero anaphors) required inferences to be resolved. The subject's task was to name a visual continuation probe that appeared at the offset of the fragment. The differences between naming latencies (...) to appropriate versus inappropriate probes was constant across conditions, and irrespective of whether or not inference-based processes were required to determine this preference. This was interpreted as showing that on-line speech processing is not necessarily slowed down by the use of inference to link utterances to their contexts. (shrink)
Understanding spoken words involves a rapid mapping from speech to conceptual representations. One distributed feature-based conceptual account assumes that the statistical characteristics of concepts’ features—the number of concepts they occur in and likelihood of co-occurrence —determine conceptual activation. To test these claims, we investigated the role of distinctiveness/sharedness and correlational strength in speech-to-meaning mapping, using a lexical decision task and computational simulations. Responses were faster for concepts with higher sharedness, suggesting that shared features are facilitatory in tasks like lexical decision (...) that require access to them. Correlational strength facilitated responses for slower participants, suggesting a time-sensitive co-occurrence-driven settling mechanism. The computational simulation showed similar effects, with early effects of shared features and later effects of correlational strength. These results support a general-to-specific account of conceptual processing, whereby early activation of shared features is followed by the gradual emergence of a specific target representation. (shrink)
Humphreys and Forde argue that semantic memory is divided into separate substores for different kinds of information. However, the neuro-imaging results cited in support of this view are inconsistent and often methodologically and statistically unreliable. Our own data indicate no regional specialisation as a function of semantic category or domain and support instead a distributed unitary account.