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10-08-2020 | Original Article

Heterogenous abstract concepts: is “ponder” different from “dissolve”?

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research
Auteurs:
Emiko J. Muraki, David M. Sidhu, Penny M. Pexman
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Abstract

Abstract words have usually been treated as a homogenous group, with limited investigation of the influence of different underlying representational systems for these words. In the present study we examined lexical–semantic processing of abstract verbs, separating them into mental state, emotional state and nonembodied state types. We used a syntactic classification task and a memory task to investigate behavioural differences amongst the abstract verb types. Semantic richness effects of each of the verbs' associates were then investigated to determine the relationship of linguistic associations to semantic processing response times for abstract verbs. We found a modest effect of abstract verb type, with mental state abstract verbs processed more quickly than nonembodied abstract verbs in the syntactic classification task; however, this effect was task dependent. We also found that memory was less accurate for the mental state abstract verbs. The semantic richness analysis of abstract verb associates revealed (1) that the concreteness of an abstract verb’s associates has a positive relationship to the verb’s response time and (2) a negative relationship between response time and age of acquisition for associates of nonembodied verbs. The results provide support for the proposal that abstract concepts engage complex representations in modal and linguistic systems.

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