The nature of novel word representations : computer mouse tracking shows evidence of immediate lexical engagement effects in adults

Lucas, Andrew Philip

September 2021

Thesis or dissertation

© 2021 Andrew Philip Lucas. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Simplistically, words are the mental bundling of a form and a referent. However, words also dynamically interact with one another in the cognitive system, and have other so-called ‘lexical properties’. For example, the word ‘dog’ will cue recognition of ‘dock’ by shared phonology, and ‘cat’, by shared semantics. Researchers have suggested that such lexical engagement between words emerges slowly, and with sleep. However, newer research suggests that this is not the case. Herein, seven experiments investigate this claim.

Fast mapping (FM), a developmental word learning procedure, has been reported to promote lexical engagement before sleep in adults. Experiment 1 altered the task parameters and failed to replicate this finding. Experiment 2 attempted a methodological replication – again, no effect was found. It is concluded that the effect reported is not easily replicable.

Other findings of pre-sleep lexical engagement were then considered using a novel methodology – computer mouse tracking. Experiments 3 and 4 developed optimal mouse tracking procedures and protocols for studying lexical engagement. Experiment 5 then applied this methodology to novel word learning, and found clear evidence of immediate lexical engagement. Experiment 6 provided evidence that participants were binding the word form to the referent in these pre-sleep lexical representations. Experiment 7 sought to strengthen this finding, but has been postponed due to the CoViD-19 pandemic.

The results are discussed in the context of the distributed cohort model of speech perception, a complementary learning systems account of word learning, and differing abstractionist and episodic accounts of the lexicon. It is concluded that the results may be most clearly explained by an episodic lexicon, although there is a need to develop hybrid models, factoring in consolidation and abstraction for the efficient storage of representations in the long term.

Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
Riggs, Kevin John; O'Connor, Richard J.; Lindsay, Shane
Sponsor (Organisation)
University of Hull; James Reckitt Charitable Trust
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