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ERIC Number: EJ1141222
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Jun
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0090-6905
The Paradox of Abstraction: Precision Versus Concreteness
Iliev, Rumen; Axelrod, Robert
Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, v46 n3 p715-729 Jun 2017
We introduce a novel measure of abstractness based on the amount of information of a concept computed from its position in a semantic taxonomy. We refer to this measure as "precision". We propose two alternative ways to measure precision, one based on the path length from a concept to the root of the taxonomic tree, and another one based on the number of direct and indirect descendants. Since more information implies greater processing load, we hypothesize that nouns higher in precision will have a processing disadvantage in a lexical decision task. We contrast precision to "concreteness", a common measure of abstractness based on the proportion of sensory-based information associated with a concept. Since concreteness facilitates cognitive processing, we predict that while both concreteness and precision are measures of abstractness, they will have opposite effects on performance. In two studies we found empirical support for our hypothesis. Precision and concreteness had opposite effects on latency and accuracy in a lexical decision task, and these opposite effects were observable while controlling for word length, word frequency, affective content and semantic diversity. Our results support the view that concepts organization includes amodal semantic structures which are independent of sensory information. They also suggest that we should distinguish between sensory-based and amount-of-information-based abstractness.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: US Air Force (DOD), Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: FA95501010373