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Poster C61

Thematic relations outperform taxonomic relations in memory retrieval

Poster Session C - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 5:00 – 7:00 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Weijia Cao1 (, Omri Raccah2, Phoebe Chen3, Alexa Tompary1, David Poeppel3,4; 1Drexel University, 2Yale University, 3New York University, 4Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience

Prior knowledge has long been known to influence retention of newly learned information. In particular, known semantic associations across items facilitate subsequent retrieval for these items, and this effect scales with measures of semantic relatedness. In the field of concepts and categories, the processing of taxonomic (e.g., dog-bird) versus thematic (e.g., dog-leash) conceptual relations has been a topic of extensive interest. In Experiment 1 (n = 79), we show that word pairs with thematic relations led to shorter reaction time and better memory performance, followed by taxonomic relations (paired permutation test, two-sided: p < 0.001) and finally unrelated pairs (p < 0.001). We hypothesized that thematically related words are more quickly and more accurately retrieved because they are more accessible in one’s semantic memory. To test this, we designed a follow-up Experiment 2 where participants encode thematically related, taxonomically related, and unrelated word pairs. Participants then complete a forced-choice associative memory test in which they are instructed to determine the paired word for a previously seen word, given three response options which are thematically related, taxonomically related, or unrelated to the cued word (3AFC). Analyses of errors in this experiment will help us understand how accessibility in semantic memory may contribute to episodic retrieval. Next steps will focus on applying transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to brain regions that are thought to be responsible for thematic and taxonomic processing, to evaluate a dual hub account of the neuroanatomical organization of semantic memory (Schwartz et al., 2011).

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Semantic


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