Recent research highlights the influence of (e.g., task) context on conceptual retrieval. In order to assess whether conceptual representations are context-dependent rather than static, we investigated the influence of spatial narrative context on accessibility for lexical-semantic information by exploring competition effects. In two visual world experiments, participants listened to narratives describing semantically related (piano-trumpet; Experiment 1) or visually similar (bat-cigarette; Experiment 2) objects in the same or separate narrative locations while viewing arrays displaying these (“target” and “competitor”) objects and other distractors. Upon re-mention of the target, we analysed eye movements to the competitor. In Experiment 1, we observed semantic competition only when targets and competitors were described in the same location; in Experiment 2, we observed visual competition regardless of context. We interpret these results as consistent with context-dependent approaches, such that spatial narrative context dampens accessibility for semantic but not visual information in the visual world.
The data and analyses are best viewed in the GitHub repository for this project.
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