- Nicole CuneoAffiliationPsychology and Cognitive Science Graduate Fellow, Princeton University
- Cara TurnbullAffiliationMusic and Cognitive Science Graduate Fellow, Princeton University
"Word meaning is complex: Implications of generalization differences in autism"
Abstract: Autistic individuals commonly experience difficulties in communication, which have previously been attributed to differences in social cognition or executive function. However, recent research suggests that there is another cognitive factor involved, which is the reduced ability to extend categories in a flexible manner. The study found that autistic adults have more difficulty than neurotypical peers in identifying new meanings of familiar words, but they outperform neurotypicals in a novel word learning task that does not require flexible extension. These results suggest that there is a recognized difference in generalization, which poses an ongoing challenge for autistic adults in the area of language, separate from social cognition, executive function, or the ability to assign single fixed meanings to new words.
"Intersubjectivity in Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories"
Abstract: It is well-established that music can evoke many kinds of mental imagery, including fictional narratives and autobiographical memories. While one might suppose these imaginings to be idiosyncratic, cross-cultural research has revealed a culture-bounded intersubjectivity in the content of narratives imagined in response to instrumental music; stories imagined in response to individual musical excerpts are more similar between people within a given culture than between people from different cultures. Pilot analyses on an existing dataset of music-evoked autobiographical memories (MEAMs) suggest that there may also be similarities between the memories evoked by familiar and unfamiliar songs, and we hypothesize that these similar associations (including particular events, settings, activities, and emotions) might be greater between people of comparable ages and backgrounds. We therefore investigated whether university undergraduates might report similar autobiographical memories in response to individual popular songs. Participants listened to clips of popular songs from three genres (pop, hip-hop, and country) and two time periods (roughly their own adolescence and that of their parents), using each song as a cue to recall a memory. Reported memories were compared using tools from natural language processing; in particular, we used a semantic embedding space model to evaluate semantic similarity, and term frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) to compare the most important words associated with each song. Preliminary results suggest that, for these participants, similarity between MEAMs is driven by both genre and song release date. These findings support the hypothesis that songs encountered in similar contexts (e.g., the listener’s life stage, the environment or activities while listening, the social circumstances, etc.) will evoke similar memories. Further research will investigate the implications of this simultaneous recollection of similar memories on social bonding during joint music listening.