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Concept: Semantics


Using a large social media dataset and open-vocabulary methods from computational linguistics, we explored differences in language use across gender, affiliation, and assertiveness. In Study 1, we analyzed topics (groups of semantically similar words) across 10 million messages from over 52,000 Facebook users. Most language differed little across gender. However, topics most associated with self-identified female participants included friends, family, and social life, whereas topics most associated with self-identified male participants included swearing, anger, discussion of objects instead of people, and the use of argumentative language. In Study 2, we plotted male- and female-linked language topics along two interpersonal dimensions prevalent in gender research: affiliation and assertiveness. In a sample of over 15,000 Facebook users, we found substantial gender differences in the use of affiliative language and slight differences in assertive language. Language used more by self-identified females was interpersonally warmer, more compassionate, polite, and-contrary to previous findings-slightly more assertive in their language use, whereas language used more by self-identified males was colder, more hostile, and impersonal. Computational linguistic analysis combined with methods to automatically label topics offer means for testing psychological theories unobtrusively at large scale.

Concepts: Semantics, Facebook, Psychology, Sex, Female, Male, Gender, Linguistics


We contrasted the predictive power of three measures of semantic richness-number of features (NFs), contextual dispersion (CD), and a novel measure of number of semantic neighbors (NSN)-for a large set of concrete and abstract concepts on lexical decision and naming tasks. NSN (but not NF) facilitated processing for abstract concepts, while NF (but not NSN) facilitated processing for the most concrete concepts, consistent with claims that linguistic information is more relevant for abstract concepts in early processing. Additionally, converging evidence from two datasets suggests that when NSN and CD are controlled for, the features that most facilitate processing are those associated with a concept’s physical characteristics and real-world contexts. These results suggest that rich linguistic contexts (many semantic neighbors) facilitate early activation of abstract concepts, whereas concrete concepts benefit more from rich physical contexts (many associated objects and locations).

Concepts: Semantics, Cognitive linguistics, Semiotics, Ontology, Concept, Idea, Abstraction, Object


Adequate normalization minimizes the effects of systematic technical variations and is a prerequisite for getting meaningful biological changes. However, there is inconsistency about miRNA normalization performances and recommendations. Thus, we investigated the impact of seven different normalization methods (reference gene index, global geometric mean, quantile, invariant selection, loess, loessM, and generalized procrustes analysis) on intra- and inter-platform performance of two distinct and commonly used miRNA profiling platforms.

Concepts: Performance, Effect, Cultural studies, Semantics, Java, Gene, Generalized mean, Procrustes analysis


Recent evidence suggests that grammatical aspect can bias how individuals perceive criminal intentionality during discourse comprehension. Given that criminal intentionality is a common criterion for legal definitions (e.g., first-degree murder), the present study explored whether grammatical aspect may also impact legal judgments. In a series of four experiments participants were provided with a legal definition and a description of a crime in which the grammatical aspect of provocation and murder events were manipulated. Participants were asked to make a decision (first- vs. second-degree murder) and then indicate factors that impacted their decision. Findings suggest that legal judgments can be affected by grammatical aspect but the most robust effects were limited to temporal dynamics (i.e., imperfective aspect results in more murder actions than perfective aspect), which may in turn influence other representational systems (i.e., number of murder actions positively predicts perceived intentionality). In addition, findings demonstrate that the influence of grammatical aspect on situation model construction and evaluation is dependent upon the larger linguistic and semantic context. Together, the results suggest grammatical aspect has indirect influences on legal judgments to the extent that variability in aspect changes the features of the situation model that align with criteria for making legal judgments.

Concepts: Aorist, Grammatical aspects, Perfect aspect, Manslaughter, Semantics, Grammatical aspect, Imperfective aspect, Perfective aspect


Neurobilingualism research has failed to reveal significant language differences in the processing of affective content. However, the evidence to date derives mostly from studies in which affective stimuli are presented out of context, which is unnatural and fails to capture the complexity of everyday sentence-based communication. Here we investigated semantic integration of affectively salient stimuli in sentential context in the first- and second-language (L2) of late fluent Polish-English bilinguals living in the UK. The 19 participants indicated whether Polish and English sentences ending with a semantically and affectively congruent or incongruent adjective of controlled affective valence made sense while undergoing behavioral and electrophysiological recordings. We focused on the N400, a wave of event-related potentials known to index semantic integration. We expected N400 amplitude to index increased processing demands in L2 English comprehension and potential language-valence interactions to reveal differences in affective processing between languages. Contrary to our initial expectation, we found increased N400 for sentences in L1 Polish, possibly driven by greater affective salience of sentences in the native language. Critically, language interacted with affective valence, such that N400 amplitudes were reduced for English sentences ending in a negative fashion as compared to all other conditions. We interpreted this as a sign that bilinguals suppress L2 content embedded in naturalistic L2 sentences when it has negative valence, thus extending the findings of previous research on single words in clinical and linguistic research.

Concepts: Neurolinguistics, French language, Second language, Semiotics, Multilingualism, Language, Semantics, Linguistics


The Food Choice Questionnaire (FCQ) assesses the importance that subjects attribute to nine factors related to food choices: health, mood, convenience, sensory appeal, natural content, price, weight control, familiarity and ethical concern. This study sought to assess the applicability of the FCQ in Brazil; it describes the translation and cultural adaptation from English into Portuguese of the FCQ via the following steps: independent translations, consensus, back-translation, evaluation by a committee of experts, semantic validation and pre-test. The pre-test was run with a randomly sampled group of 86 male and female college students from different courses with a median age of 19. Slight differences between the versions were observed and adjustments were made. After minor changes in the translation process, the committee of experts considered that the Brazilian Portuguese version was semantically and conceptually equivalent to the English original. Semantic validation showed that the questionnaire is easily understood. The instrument presented a high degree of internal consistency. The study is the first stage in the process of validating an instrument, which consists of face and content validity. Further stages, already underway, are needed before other researchers can use it.

Concepts: Portuguese language, Free will, Semantics, Translation, Grammar, Psychometrics, Language, Brazil


The aim of this research was to study semantic abilities and their loss in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and in dementia, while analyzing efficiency in the use of associative relations, within verbal and visuoperceptual modalities. Participants were split into 4 groups: 19 participants with amnestic MCI, 16 patients with mild Alzheimer disease (AD), 20 patients with moderate AD, and 20 healthy controls (HCs). All participants performed standardized neuropsychological tests and experimental (naming and semantic associations) tasks to evaluate verbal and visuoperceptual semantic abilities. We analyzed 4 associative relations (part/whole, function, superordinate, and contiguity) in both verbal and visuoperceptual code. Our results suggest a progressive impairment in semantic categorization knowledge, with worse performance in the AD groups relative to the MCI and HC groups. Our data show a different pattern in the 4 associative relations and the involvement of associative semantic relations already in the early stage of disease, as well as a different pattern of deterioration between verbal and visuoperceptual modalities. Our data indicate that the visuoperceptual semantic network appears to be less deteriorated than the verbal network in AD. The verbal semantic network may be more sensitive in detecting patients at an early stage of the disease.

Concepts: Caregiving and dementia, Donepezil, Semantics, Neurocognitive, Dementia, Semantic memory, Mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease


A number of studies on network analysis have focused on language networks based on free word association, which reflects human lexical knowledge, and have demonstrated the small-world and scale-free properties in the word association network. Nevertheless, there have been very few attempts at applying network analysis to distributional semantic models, despite the fact that these models have been studied extensively as computational or cognitive models of human lexical knowledge. In this paper, we analyze three network properties, namely, small-world, scale-free, and hierarchical properties, of semantic networks created by distributional semantic models. We demonstrate that the created networks generally exhibit the same properties as word association networks. In particular, we show that the distribution of the number of connections in these networks follows the truncated power law, which is also observed in an association network. This indicates that distributional semantic models can provide a plausible model of lexical knowledge. Additionally, the observed differences in the network properties of various implementations of distributional semantic models are consistently explained or predicted by considering the intrinsic semantic features of a word-context matrix and the functions of matrix weighting and smoothing. Furthermore, to simulate a semantic network with the observed network properties, we propose a new growing network model based on the model of Steyvers and Tenenbaum. The idea underlying the proposed model is that both preferential and random attachments are required to reflect different types of semantic relations in network growth process. We demonstrate that this model provides a better explanation of network behaviors generated by distributional semantic models.

Concepts: Semantic link, Semantic lexicon, Social network, Semantic network, Cognition, Network diagram, Scientific method, Semantics


Why do people self-report an aversion to words like “moist”? The present studies represent an initial scientific exploration into the phenomenon of word aversion by investigating its prevalence and cause. Results of five experiments indicate that about 10-20% of the population is averse to the word “moist.” This population often speculates that phonological properties of the word are the cause of their displeasure. However, data from the current studies point to semantic features of the word-namely, associations with disgusting bodily functions-as a more prominent source of peoples' unpleasant experience. “Moist,” for averse participants, was notable for its valence and personal use, rather than imagery or arousal-a finding that was confirmed by an experiment designed to induce an aversion to the word. Analyses of individual difference measures suggest that word aversion is more prevalent among younger, more educated, and more neurotic people, and is more commonly reported by females than males.

Concepts: Valence, Causality, Suffering, Greek loanwords, Semantics, Experiment, Language, Science


Causal inference is a core task of science. However, authors and editors often refrain from explicitly acknowledging the causal goal of research projects; they refer to causal effect estimates as associational estimates. This commentary argues that using the term “causal” is necessary to improve the quality of observational research. Specifically, being explicit about the causal objective of a study reduces ambiguity in the scientific question, errors in the data analysis, and excesses in the interpretation of the results. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print March 22, 2018: e1-e4. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304337).

Concepts: Falsifiability, Semantics, Nature, Theory, Science, Experiment, Causality, Scientific method