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How social network heterogeneity facilitates lexical access and lexical prediction

Lev-Ari, S., & Shao, Z. (2017). How social network heterogeneity facilitates lexical access and lexical prediction. Memory & Cognition, 45(3), 528-538. doi:10.3758/s13421-016-0675-y.
People learn language from their social environment. As individuals differ in their social networks, they might be exposed to input with different lexical distributions, and these might influence their linguistic representations and lexical choices. In this article we test the relation between linguistic performance and 3 social network properties that should influence input variability, namely, network size, network heterogeneity, and network density. In particular, we examine how these social network properties influence lexical prediction, lexical access, and lexical use. To do so, in Study 1, participants predicted how people of different ages would name pictures, and in Study 2 participants named the pictures themselves. In both studies, we examined how participants’ social network properties related to their performance. In Study 3, we ran simulations on norms we collected to see how age variability in one’s network influences the distribution of different names in the input. In all studies, network age heterogeneity influenced performance leading to better prediction, faster response times for difficult-to-name items, and less entropy in input distribution. These results suggest that individual differences in social network properties can influence linguistic behavior. Specifically, they show that having a more heterogeneous network is associated with better performance. These results also show that the same factors influence lexical prediction and lexical production, suggesting the two might be related.
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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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