Postdoctoral fellow, University of Pennsylvania
How conceptual combinations effect semantic memory structure
The generative capacity of language entails an ability to flexibly combine concepts with each other. Conceptual combination can occur either by using an attribute of one concept to describe another (attributive combination) or by forming some relation between two concepts to create a new one (relational combination). Prior research has addressed whether common or distinct processes support these two putatively different types of combinations. We turn the question around and ask whether the consequences of these combination types on our conceptual system might differ, by comparing semantic memory networks before and after participants perform either attributive or relational conceptual combinations. We find a general effect on the semantic networks: the structure of network decreases after participants conceptually combine some of the concepts in the network. However, the relational combination manipulation has a greater effect. Furthermore, only the relational combination manipulation leads to an increase in the network’s connectivity.
Abstract: According to Mednick's (1962) theory of individual differences in creativity, creative individuals appear to have a richer and more flexible associative network than less creative individuals. Thus, creative individuals are characterized by "flat" (broader associations) instead of "steep" (few, common associations) associational hierarchies. To study these differences, we implement a novel computational approach to the study of semantic networks, through the analysis of free associations. The core notion of our method is that concepts in the network are related to each other by their association correlations-overlap of similar associative responses ("association clouds"). We began by collecting a large sample of participants who underwent several creativity measurements and used a decision tree approach to divide the sample into low and high creative groups. Next, each group underwent a free association generation paradigm which allowed us to construct and analyze the semantic networks of both groups. Comparison of the semantic memory networks of persons with low creative ability and persons with high creative ability revealed differences between the two networks. The semantic memory network of persons with low creative ability seems to be more rigid, compared to the network of persons with high creative ability, in the sense that it is more spread out and breaks apart into more sub-parts. We discuss how our findings are in accord and extend Mednick's (1962) theory and the feasibility of using network science paradigms to investigate high level cognition.
Pub.: 25 Jun '14, Pinned: 18 Aug '17
Abstract: Neurotypical individuals cope flexibly with the full range of semantic relations expressed in human language, including metaphoric relations. This impressive semantic ability may be associated with distinct and flexible patterns of hemispheric interaction, including higher right hemisphere (RH) involvement for processing novel metaphors. However, this ability may be impaired in specific clinical conditions, such as Asperger syndrome (AS) and schizophrenia. The impaired semantic processing is accompanied by different patterns of hemispheric interaction during semantic processing, showing either reduced (in Asperger syndrome) or excessive (in schizophrenia) RH involvement. This paper interprets these individual differences using the terms Rigidity, Chaos and Integration, which describe patterns of semantic memory network states that either lead to semantic well-being or are disruptive of it. We argue that these semantic network states lie on a rigidity-chaos semantic continuum. We define these terms via network science terminology and provide network, cognitive and neural evidence to support our claim. This continuum includes left hemisphere (LH) hyper-rigid semantic memory state on one end (e.g., in persons with AS), and RH chaotic and over-flexible semantic memory state on the other end (e.g., in persons with schizophrenia). In between these two extremes lie different states of semantic memory structure which are related to individual differences in semantic creativity. We suggest that efficient semantic processing is achieved by semantic integration, a balance between semantic rigidity and semantic chaos. Such integration is achieved via intra-hemispheric communication. However, impairments to this well-balanced and integrated pattern of hemispheric interaction, e.g., when one hemisphere dominates the other, may lead to either semantic rigidity or semantic chaos, moving away from semantic integration and thus impairing the processing of metaphoric language.
Pub.: 30 Jul '14, Pinned: 18 Aug '17