, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 542-550
Date: 11 Jan 2013

Flexible and fast: Linguistic shortcut affects both shallow and deep conceptual processing

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Abstract

Previous research has shown that people use linguistic distributional information during conceptual processing, and that it is especially useful for shallow tasks and rapid responding. Using two conceptual combination tasks, we showed that this linguistic shortcut extends to the processing of novel stimuli, is used in both successful and unsuccessful conceptual processing, and is evident in both shallow and deep conceptual tasks. Specifically, as predicted by the ECCo theory of conceptual combination, people use the linguistic shortcut as a “quick-and-dirty” guide to whether the concepts are likely to combine into a coherent conceptual representation, in both shallow sensibility judgment and deep interpretation generation tasks. Linguistic distributional frequency predicts both the likelihood and the time course of rejecting a novel word compound as nonsensical or uninterpretable. However, it predicts the time course of successful processing only in shallow sensibility judgment, because the deeper conceptual process of interpretation generation does not allow the linguistic shortcut to suffice. Furthermore, the effects of linguistic distributional frequency are independent of any effects of conventional word frequency. We discuss the utility of the linguistic shortcut as a cognitive triage mechanism that can optimize processing in a limited-resource conceptual system.