DS-2020-10: Perceiving and communicating magnitudes: Behavioral and electrophysiological studies

DS-2020-10: Kochari, Arnold (2020) Perceiving and communicating magnitudes: Behavioral and electrophysiological studies. Doctoral thesis, University of Amsterdam.

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This thesis presents investigations of the cognitive and neuronal processes that take part in the comprehension and production of scalar adjectives such as ‘large’, ‘long’, ‘loud’, ‘quiet’ and quantifiers such as ‘many’, ‘few’, ‘most’. The main topic of this thesis (Chapters 2-4 ) concerns the potential relationship between processing mechanisms for scalar adjectives and natural language quantifiers (i.e. symbolic magnitudes) on the one hand, and processing mechanisms for the estimation and comparison of perceptually given (i.e. nonsymbolic) magnitudes such as quantity, length, duration from perceptual input on other other hand. Scalar adjectives and at least some natural language quantifiers can be seen as references to nonsymbolic magnitude representations. The potential relation of scalar adjectives and quantifiers with perceptual quantities is investigated by asking whether they are processed in a similar way as number symbols (such as Arabic digits, e.g., ‘3’, ‘5’, and number words, e.g., ‘three’, ‘five’), a symbolic magnitude representation whose interaction with nonsymbolic magnitude representations has already been a subject of extensive research in the past. In Chapter 5 the scope of the thesis is expanded to an investigation of neuronal activity during composition of scalar adjectives and nouns.
Chapter 2 provides an overview of findings and methods from research into the relationship between number symbol and nonsymbolic magnitude processing by the brain. We review findings and methods that could be of potential use for research into the parallel relationship between quantifiers and nonsymbolic magnitude processing. Furthermore, this chapter presents an extended discussion on the properties of various quantifier classes in relation to the properties of nonsymbolic magnitude processing mechanisms. Importantly, we also provide a set of research directions and specific questions for the investigation of quantifier processing.
Chapter 3 reviews issues around web-based data collection for the purpose of numerical cognition research and presents results of two replication studies of classical paradigms in numerical cognition research: the number size congruity paradigm and comparison to a given standard. One of these paradigms, the number size congruity paradigm, was subsequently used to investigate scalar adjective processing in Chapter 4.
Chapter 4 consists of a series of six experiments which explore the interaction of the meaning of number words and scalar adjectives with nonsymbolic magnitudes. The critical experiments of this study tested the hypothesis that retrieval of the meaning of scalar adjectives requires the involvement of the generalized magnitude representation system.
The focus of Chapter 5 is on the brain activity accompanying the composition of minimal adjective-noun phrases. The meaning of scalar adjectives is highly dependent on the noun that they are combined with (e.g., in ‘large chair’ vs. ‘large house’, the adjective ‘large’ describes objects that are widely different in size), whereas the meaning of non-gradable adjectives (such as e.g., ‘dead’, ‘rectangular’, ‘wooden’, ‘electric’) is not dependent on the noun meaning to the same extent. A previous magnetoencephalography study reported differences in neuronal activity when processing adjective-noun phrases with scalar adjectives versus processing adjective-noun phrases with non-gradable adjectives. Presumably, these differences reflect the fact that the meaning of the adjective is highly dependent on on the noun meaning in the case of scalar adjectives, while such strong context dependency does not hold in the case of non-gradable adjectives. Our study followed up on these findings with the goal of determining the robustness of the observed differences in the neuronal activity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Report Nr: DS-2020-10
Series Name: ILLC Dissertation (DS) Series
Year: 2020
Subjects: Cognition
Depositing User: Dr Marco Vervoort
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 15:17
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 15:17
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/2179

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