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The nature of novel word representations : computer mouse tracking shows evidence of immediate lexical engagement effects in adults

Lucas, Andrew Philip


Andrew Philip Lucas


Kevin John Riggs

Richard J. O'Connor


Simplistically, words are the mental bundling of a form and a referent. However, words also dynamically interact with one another in the cognitive system, and have other so-called ‘lexical properties’. For example, the word ‘dog’ will cue recognition of ‘dock’ by shared phonology, and ‘cat’, by shared semantics. Researchers have suggested that such lexical engagement between words emerges slowly, and with sleep. However, newer research suggests that this is not the case. Herein, seven experiments investigate this claim.

Fast mapping (FM), a developmental word learning procedure, has been reported to promote lexical engagement before sleep in adults. Experiment 1 altered the task parameters and failed to replicate this finding. Experiment 2 attempted a methodological replication – again, no effect was found. It is concluded that the effect reported is not easily replicable.

Other findings of pre-sleep lexical engagement were then considered using a novel methodology – computer mouse tracking. Experiments 3 and 4 developed optimal mouse tracking procedures and protocols for studying lexical engagement. Experiment 5 then applied this methodology to novel word learning, and found clear evidence of immediate lexical engagement. Experiment 6 provided evidence that participants were binding the word form to the referent in these pre-sleep lexical representations. Experiment 7 sought to strengthen this finding, but has been postponed due to the CoViD-19 pandemic.

The results are discussed in the context of the distributed cohort model of speech perception, a complementary learning systems account of word learning, and differing abstractionist and episodic accounts of the lexicon. It is concluded that the results may be most clearly explained by an episodic lexicon, although there is a need to develop hybrid models, factoring in consolidation and abstraction for the efficient storage of representations in the long term.


Lucas, A. P. (2021). The nature of novel word representations : computer mouse tracking shows evidence of immediate lexical engagement effects in adults. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 26, 2021
Publicly Available Date Feb 24, 2023
Keywords Psychology
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
Award Date Sep 1, 2021


Thesis (5.5 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2021 Lucas, Andrew Philip. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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