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Title: The neural basis of compositionality: functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of conceptual combination
Authors: Baron, Sean George
Advisors: Osherson, Daniel
Contributors: Psychology Department
Keywords: Compositionality
Conceptual Combination
Subjects: Cognitive psychology
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The use of concepts underlies the most basic cognitive processes. Consequently, psychologists have long been interested in understanding the behavioral and neural correlates of conceptual knowledge and its manipulation. This has led to a rich set of research results that have expanded our understanding of concepts. However, upon reviewing this literature it is clear that little of it expressly addresses the neural basis of conceptual combination. Conceptual combination is the mental construction of complex concepts (e.g., GRADUATE STUDENT) from simpler constituents (e.g., GRADUATE and STUDENT). The process of conceptual combination serves as the foundation for human conceptual creativity--our ability to create an infinite number of new ideas from a limited set. Across three functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, I explore the neural basis of basic conceptual combination. In the first I prove the feasibility of using fMRI to examine modifier-substantive combinations, and provide evidence for multiplicative combination (e.g., YOUNG × MAN → YOUNG MAN) in the left anterior temporal lobe. Studies two and three utilize non-phonologically dependent concepts (e.g., MALE × CHILD → BOY and WILD × BIRD → EAGLE) and also point to the left anterior temporal lobe as a likely site of conceptual combination. Taken together, these results demonstrate the importance of the left anterior temporal lobe in conceptual combination, and also reveal a way for the cortex to store and process complex concepts in a non-redundant fashion.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Psychology

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