Analyzing the factors underlying the structure and computation of the meaning of chipmunk, cherry, chisel, cheese, and cello (and many other such concrete nouns)

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2003 Jun;132(2):163-201. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.132.2.163.


Seven trends regarding the categories that tend to be impaired/preserved in category-specific semantic deficits were identified. The authors hypothesized that these trends arise despite the multiple sources of variation in patient testing because numerous factors that structure semantic memory probabilistically converge to make some categories of knowledge more susceptible to damage than others. Analysis of semantic feature norms and corpus data for 541 concepts revealed that differences in the distribution of knowledge types across categories are sufficient to explain 6 of the trends and are necessary to explain loss of knowledge about nonliving things. Feature informativeness, concept confusability, visual complexity, familiarity, and name frequency contributed to this patterning and provide insight into why knowledge about living things is most often impaired.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Data Processing*
  • Humans
  • Semantics*
  • Visual Perception
  • Vocabulary*