, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 87-113
Date: 28 Nov 2007

Activating Basic Category Exemplars in Sentence Contexts: A Dynamical Account

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Abstract

This paper examines the influence of context on the processing of category names embedded in sentences. The investigation focuses on the nature of information available immediately after such a word is heard as well as on the dynamics of adaptation to context. An on-line method (Cross Modal Lexical Priming) was used to trace how this process unfolds in time. We found that the information available immediately after a category word is presented is not altered by the sentence context in which the word is immersed. Rather, the structure of availability of particular exemplars of the category resembles the typicality structure of a conceptual representation. The adaptation to context occurs later (between 300 and 450 ms after the category word) and takes the form of a rapid reorganization of the structure rather than a gradual activation of a contextually relevant exemplar. We claim that such data is best accounted for in a dynamical framework, where a coherent global structure emerges through locally guided self-organization.