Assessing the time course of the influence of featural, distributional and spatial representations during reading

Ernesto GuerraCognitive Interaction Technology Excellence Cluster, Bielefeld University; Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Falk HuettigMax Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Pia KnoeferleCognitive Interaction Technology Excellence Cluster, Bielefeld University

Abstract

What does semantic similarity between two concepts mean? How could we measure it? The way in which semantic similarity is calculated might differ depending on the theoretical notion of semantic representation. In an eye-tracking reading experiment, we investigated whether two widely used semantic similarity measures (based on featural or distributional representations) have distinctive effects on sentence reading times. In other words, we explored whether these measures of semantic similarity differ qualitatively. In addition, we examined whether visually perceived spatial distance interacts with either or both of these measures. Our results showed that the effect of featural and distributional representations on reading times can differ both in direction and in its time course. Moreover, both featural and distributional information interacted with spatial distance, yet in different sentence regions and reading measures. We conclude that featural and distributional representations are distinct components of semantic representation.

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