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.
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