Quantifying Social Semantics: an Inclusive Definition of Socialness and Ratings for 8,388 English Words
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Description: It has been proposed that social experience plays an important role in the grounding of concepts, and socialness has been proffered as a fundamental organisational principle underpinning semantic representation in the human brain. However, the empirical support for these hypotheses is limited by inconsistencies in the way socialness has been defined and measured. To further advance theory, the field must establish a clearer working definition, and research efforts could be facilitated by the availability of an extensive set of socialness ratings for individual concepts. Therefore, in the current work we employed a novel and inclusive definition to test the extent to which socialness is reliably perceived as a broad construct, and we report socialness norms for over 8,000 English words, including nouns, verbs and adjectives. Our inclusive socialness measure shows good reliability and validity, and our analyses suggest that the socialness ratings capture aspects of word meaning which are distinct to those measured by other pertinent semantic constructs, including concreteness and emotional valence. Finally, in a series of regression analyses, we show for the first time that the socialness of a word's meaning explains unique variance in participant performance on lexical tasks. Our dataset of socialness norms has considerable item overlap with those used both in other lexical/semantic norms and in available behavioural mega-studies.
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