Some studies have indicated that a specific 'social semantic network' represents the social meanings of words. However, studies of the comprehension of complex materials, such as sentences and narratives, have indicated that the same network supports the online accumulation of connected semantic information. In this study, we examined the hypothesis that this network does not simply represent the social meanings of words but also accumulates connected social meanings from texts. We defined the social semantic network by conducting a meta-analysis of previous studies on social semantic processing and then examined the effects of social semantic accumulation using a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) experiment. Two important findings were obtained. First, the social semantic network showed a stronger social semantic effect in sentence and narrative reading than in word list reading, indicating the amplitude of social semantic activation can be accumulated in the network. Second, the activation of the social semantic network in sentence and narrative reading can be better explained by the holistic social-semantic-richness rating scores of the stimuli than by those of the constitutive words, indicating the social semantic contents can be integrated in the network. These two findings convergently indicate that the social semantic network supports the accumulation of connected social meanings.
Keywords: fMRI; language comprehension; narrative; sentence; social semantic processing.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press.