Skip to main content

Dr. Ken McRae, 4:00pm November 1st, 2016

Dr. Ken McRae

Department of Psychology, and Brain & Mind Institute
University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada

    Tuesday, November 1st
    Swift 107
    Reception to Follow 

 Ken McRaeThe Importance of Event Knowledge in the Organization and Structure of Semantic Memory

People constantly use concepts and word meaning to recognize entities and objects in their environment, to anticipate how entities will behave and interact with one another, to know how objects should be used, and to understand language. Over the years, a number of theories have been presented regarding how concepts are organized and structured in semantic memory. For example, various theories stress that concepts (or lexical items) are linked by undifferentiated associations. Other theories stress hierarchical categorical (taxonomic) structure, whereas others focus on similarity among concepts.

In this talk, I will present evidence that people’s knowledge of real-world events and situations is an important factor underlying the organization, structure, and (contextually-determined) usage of concepts in semantic memory. I will present experiments spanning word, picture, and sentence processing. Evidence for the importance of event-based knowledge will cover a number of  types of concepts, including verbs, nouns denoting living and nonliving things, and abstract concepts. I conclude that semantic memory is structured in the mind so that the computation and use of knowledge of real-world events and situations is both rapid and fundamental.