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J Exp Psychol Gen. 1997 Jun;126(2):99-130.

On the nature and scope of featural representations of word meaning.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.


Behavioral experiments and a connectionist model were used to explore the use of featural representations in the computation of word meaning. The research focused on the role of correlations among features, and differences between speeded and untimed tasks with respect to the use of featural information. The results indicate that featural representations are used in the initial computation of word meaning (as in an attractor network), patterns of feature correlations differ between artifacts and living things, and the degree to which features are intercorrelated plays an important role in the organization of semantic memory. The studies also suggest that it may be possible to predict semantic priming effects from independently motivated featural theories of semantic relatedness. Implications for related behavioral phenomena such as the semantic impairments associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) are discussed.

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