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Discussion and conclusion

In the simulation results a bias towards syntagmatic associations was found. Since the associations were computed from co-occurrences of words in texts, this preference of syntagmatic associations is not surprising. It is remarkable, instead, that many associations usually considered to be paradigmatic are predicted correctly. Examples include man  tex2html_wrap_inline331  woman, black  tex2html_wrap_inline331  white and bitter  tex2html_wrap_inline331  sweet. We believe, however, that the tendency to prefer syntagmatic associations can be reduced by not counting co-occurrences found within collocations. Equivalently, the association strength between word pairs always occuring together in a strict formation (separated by a constant number of other words) could be reduced.

When going from English to German, the parameters tex2html_wrap_inline299 and tex2html_wrap_inline301 in equation 6 needed to be readjusted in such a way, that less frequent words obtained a better chance to be associated. This reflects the fact, that there is more variation in the associative responses of German than of American subjects, and that American subjects tend to respond with words of higher corpus frequency. We believe that by considering additional languages this parameter adjustment could be predicted from word-frequency-distribution.

In conclusion, the results show, that free word associations for English and German can be successfully predicted by an almost identical algorithm which is based on the co-occurrence-frequencies of words in texts. Some peculiarities in the associative behavior of the subjects were confirmed in the simulation. Together, this is a good indication that the learning of word associations is governed by the law of association by contiguity.

Although our simulation results are not perfect, specialized versions of our program have already proved useful in a number of applications:

The successful prediction of different types of verbal behavior on the basis of co-occurrences of words in texts is a direct application of the classical contiguity-theory, or, in more modern neurophysiological terms, of Hebb's learning rule. Cognitive psychology has severely criticized contiguity-theory with the arguments that association theory did not produce useful results (Jenkins, 1974), and that associations are not the result of associative learning but of underlying semantic processes (Clark, 1970). Both arguments need a critical revision. Recent work with large corpora as well as a large number of connectionist studies have yielded very useful results in different psychological domains, and the high predictive power of the associationist approach makes that the intuitive appeal of cognitivist explanations is fading rapidly.


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Wettler, M. & Rapp, R. (1993). Associative analysis of advertisements. Submitted to Marketing and Research Today.

next up previous
Next: Über dieses Dokument Up: No Title Previous: Results

Reinhard Rapp
Tue Aug 13 18:20:02 MET DST 1996