Abstract: The meaning of a word is more than definition. The comprehension of
the words "love" or "death" entails a deep understanding of the social and emotional
implications, as wells as contextual and motivational significance. In this dissertation,
we explore the neuroscience of how emotional content, local context, and task demands
influence word processing. In chapter I, we describe anal... read moreytic approaches to these questions
that model word processing as the convergence of the particulars of the item, the
comprehender, and context. In chapter II, we apply these techniques to investigate how the
semantic processing of infrequent words is facilitated if that word is also highly
emotional, regardless of whether attention is oriented towards semantic features or
emotional features. In chapter III, we present two experiments that investigate the role of
valence in semantic processing by implementing a full cross of semantic priming and
affective priming, finding radically different patterns of effects that suggest the two may
rely on distinct mechanisms. And in chapter IV, we investigate how the semantic priming
effect adapts to the local context as participants implicitly learn the statistical
contingencies, using a novel trial-by-trial adaptation analysis that shows the evolution of
the semantic priming effect through time. Overall, these data suggest that semantic
processing is fundamentally supported by all pertinent knowledge, including knowledge of
emotional significance and implicit contextual expectations. Language comprehension is as
richly textured as the comprehenders.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2016.
Submitted to the Dept. of Psychology.
Advisor: Gina Kuperberg.
Committee: Gina Kuperberg, Heather Urry, Meredith Brown, and Eddie
Keywords: Neurosciences, and Cognitive psychology.read less