McRae, Brown and Elman argue against the view that events are structured as frequently‐occurring sequences of world stimuli. They underline the importance of temporal structure defining event types and advance a more complex temporal structure, which allows for some variance in the component elements.
concepts typically are defined in terms of lacking physical or perceptual referents. We argue instead that they are not devoid of perceptual information because knowledge of real-world situations is an important component of learning and using many abstract concepts. Although the relationship between perceptual information and abstract concepts is less straightforward than for concrete concepts, situation-based perceptual knowledge is part of many abstract concepts. In Experiment 1, participants made lexical decisions to abstract words that were preceded by related and unrelated (...) pictures of situations. For example, share was preceded by a picture of two girls sharing a cob of corn. When pictures were presented for 500 ms, latencies did not differ. However, when pictures were presented for 1,000 ms, decision latencies were significantly shorter for abstract words preceded by related versus unrelated pictures. Because the abstract concepts corresponded to the pictured situation as a whole, rather than a single concrete object or entity, the necessary relational processing takes time. In Experiment 2, on each trial, an abstract word was presented for 250 ms, immediately followed by a picture. Participants indicated whether or not the picture showed a normal situation. Decision latencies were significantly shorter for pictures preceded by related versus unrelated abstract words. Our experiments provide evidence that knowledge of events and situations is important for learning and using at least some types of abstract concepts. That is, abstract concepts are grounded in situations, but in a more complex manner than for concrete concepts. Although people's understanding of abstract concepts certainly includes knowledge gained from language describing situations and events for which those concepts are relevant, sensory and motor information experienced during real-life events is important as well. (shrink)
The structure of people’s conceptual knowledge of concrete nouns has traditionally been viewed as hierarchical (Collins & Quillian, 1969). For example, superordinate concepts (vegetable) are assumed to reside at a higher level than basic‐level concepts (carrot). A feature‐based attractor network with a single layer of semantic features developed representations of both basic‐level and superordinate concepts. No hierarchical structure was built into the network. In Experiment and Simulation 1, the graded structure of categories (typicality ratings) is accounted for by the flat (...) attractor network. Experiment and Simulation 2 show that, as with basic‐level concepts, such a network predicts feature verification latencies for superordinate concepts (vegetable ). In Experiment and Simulation 3, counterintuitive results regarding the temporal dynamics of similarity in semantic priming are explained by the model. By treating both types of concepts the same in terms of representation, learning, and computations, the model provides new insights into semantic memory. (shrink)
Anticipation plays a role in language comprehension. In this article, we explore the extent to which verb sense influences expectations about upcoming structure. We focus on change of state verbs like shatter, which have different senses that are expressed in either transitive or intransitive structures, depending on the sense that is used. In two experiments we influence the interpretation of verb sense by manipulating the thematic fit of the grammatical subject as cause or affected entity for the verb, and test (...) whether readers’ expectations for a transitive or intransitive structure change as a result. This sense‐biasing context influenced reading times in the postverbal regions. Reading times for transitive sentences were faster following good‐cause than good‐theme subjects, but the opposite pattern was found for intransitive sentences. We conclude that readers use sense‐contingent subcategorization preferences during on‐line comprehension. (shrink)
Distributional semantic models (DSMs) are a primary method for distilling semantic information from corpora. However, a key question remains: What types of semantic relations among words do DSMs detect? Prior work typically has addressed this question using limited human data that are restricted to semantic similarity and/or general semantic relatedness. We tested eight DSMs that are popular in current cognitive and psycholinguistic research (positive pointwise mutual information; global vectors; and three variations each of Skip-gram and continuous bag of words (CBOW) (...) using word, context, and mean embeddings) on a theoretically motivated, rich set of semantic relations involving words from multiple syntactic classes and spanning the abstract–concrete continuum (19 sets of ratings). We found that, overall, the DSMs are best at capturing overall semantic similarity and also can capture verb–noun thematic role relations and noun–noun event-based relations that play important roles in sentence comprehension. Interestingly, Skip-gram and CBOW performed the best in terms of capturing similarity, whereas GloVe dominated the thematic role and event-based relations. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our results, make recommendations for users of these models, and demonstrate significant differences in model performance on event-based relations. (shrink)
Most current theories of category-specific semantic deficits appeal to the role of sensory and functional knowledge types in explaining patients' impairments. We discuss why this binary classification is inadequate, point to a more detailed knowledge type taxonomy, and suggest how it may provide insight into the relationships between category-specific semantic deficits and impairments of specific aspects of knowledge.