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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Which semantic properties of a feature affect access to an object concept?


We investigated how the properties of lexical items, which label object features, affect concept tokening. We addressed this issue by modeling data from three sources: (1) norms obtained from a dataset of 78,000 features to a set of pictures representing living and nonliving objects; (2) accuracy data from a picture-word priming congruency task with stimuli presented for 50-60 milliseconds; and (3) corpus data on the lexical properties of four different social usage count measures. We conducted two sets of analyses: one relying on sample count-based measures (i.e., measures based on the norming study: sample frequency, cue validity, feature distinctiveness), and a second relying on the social usage count-based measures (i.e., word frequency (WF), contextual diversity (CD), discourse contextual diversity (DCD), and user contextual diversity (UCD). Contrasting count and social usage-based measures allowed us to gain insight into the contribution of diverse semantic and socially oriented contextual measures of lexical items, and how they may affect concept tokening. Our results show that cue validity and feature distinctiveness were negative predictors of participants’ accuracy to congruency decisions—an effect which was more pronounced for distinctive features of living things. There was also a noticeable advantage for the UCD and DCD variables, over CD and WF. Overall, our results suggest that the conceptual system may be organized as a function of both, intrinsic properties of object features and usage based contextual measures of lexical items that label these features.

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