LingLang Lunch (4/20/2016): Eiling Yee (University of Connecticut)

Putting Concepts in Context

At first glance, conceptual representations (e.g., our internal notion of the object lemon) seem static. That is, we have the impression that there is something that lemon “means” (a sour, yellow, football-shaped, citrus fruit) and that this meaning does not vary. Research in semantic memory has traditionally taken this “static” perspective. In this talk I will describe studies that challenge this perspective by showing that the context that an individual brings with them (via their current goals, recent experience, long-term experience, or neural degeneration) influences the cognitive and neural instantiations of object concepts. I will argue that our findings support models of semantic memory in which rather than being static, conceptual representations are dynamic and shaped by experience.