Words and non-speech sounds access lexical and semantic knowledge differently

AbstractUsing an eye-tracking paradigm, we examined the strength and speed of access to lexical knowledge (e.g., our representation of the word dog in our mental vocabulary) and semantic knowledge (e.g., our knowledge that a dog is associated with a leash) via both spoken words (e.g., “dog”) and characteristic sounds (e.g., a dog’s bark). Results show that both spoken words and characteristic sounds activate lexical and semantic knowledge, but with different patterns. Spoken words activate lexical knowledge faster than characteristic sounds do, but with the same strength. In contrast, characteristic sounds access semantic knowledge stronger than spoken words do, but with the same speed. These findings reveal similarities and differences in the activation of conceptual knowledge by verbal and non-verbal means and advance our understanding of how auditory input is cognitively processed.

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