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How the size of our social network influences our semantic skills

Lev-Ari, S. (2016). How the size of our social network influences our semantic skills. Cognitive Science, 40, 2050-2064. doi:10.1111/cogs.12317.
People differ in the size of their social network, and thus in the properties of the linguistic input they receive. This article examines whether differences in social network size influence individuals’ linguistic skills in their native language, focusing on global comprehension of evaluative language. Study 1 exploits the natural variation in social network size and shows that individuals with larger social networks are better at understanding the valence of restaurant reviews. Study 2 manipulated social network size by randomly assigning participants to learn novel evaluative words as used by two (small network) versus eight (large network) speakers. It replicated the finding from Study 1, showing that those exposed to a larger social network were better at comprehending the valence of product reviews containing the novel words that were written by novel speakers. Together, these studies show that the size of one's social network can influence success at language comprehension. They thus open the door to research on how individuals’ lifestyle and the nature of their social interactions can influence linguistic skills.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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