Shared features dominate semantic richness effects for concrete concepts

Ray Grondin, Stephen J. Lupker*, Ken McRae

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    70 Citations (Scopus)


    When asked to list semantic features for concrete concepts, participants list many features for some concepts and few for others. Concepts with many semantic features are processed faster in lexical and semantic decision tasks [Pexman, P. M., Lupker, S. J., & Hino, Y. (2002). The impact of feedback semantics in visual word recognition: Number-of-features effects in lexical decision and naming tasks. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9, 542-549; Pexman, P. M., Holyk, G. G., & MonFils, M.-H. (2003). Number-of-features effects and semantic processing. Memory & Cognition, 31, 842-855]. Using both lexical and concreteness decision tasks, we provided further insight into these number-of-features (NoF) effects. We began by replicating the effect using a larger and better controlled set of items. We then investigated the relationship between NoF and feature distinctiveness and found that features shared by numerous concrete concepts such as <has four legs> facilitate decisions to a greater extent than do distinctive features such as <moos>. Finally, we showed that NoF effects are carried by shared visual form and surface, encyclopedic, tactile, and taste knowledge. We propose a decision-making account of these results, rather than one based on the computation of word meaning.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Memory and Language
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


    • Lexical concepts
    • Modality-specific conceptual representations
    • Number-of-features effect
    • Semantic memory


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