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Research & Training Blog

A visit from Dr. Chris Westbury

This video was broadcast over Facebook Live.

Dr. Chris Westbury (Professor of Psychology, University of Alberta, Canada) visited campus on Nov. 21 and gave a talk entitled: "Word Meaning, Emotion, and Reading Style."

Abstract: Reading is a complex activity. When we read, we are not simply decoding letters into words, but simultaneously updating a multi-dimensional model of the topic we are reading about, necessarily involving not only linguistic skills, but also memory, anticipation, imagination, and the ability to model sensations in multiple sensory modalities. There are large individual differences in our sensory experiences during reading, with some readers relying on visualizing what they are reading about, some experiencing reading as an experience of hearing the words they are reading, and some attesting to a strong emotional response to written texts. In this talk, Dr. Westbury will focus on the emotional aspect of word reading, presenting evidence showing that there are measurable individual differences in reading ability that are attributable to emotion, and discussing recent experimental and computational evidence suggesting that the coding of word meanings may be largely dependent on the emotional tone of words.

Dr. Chris Westbury is a clinically-trained research psychologist whose work focuses on understanding the cognitive structure and neurological underpinnings of language. He has a particular interest in semantics, or what it means for words to have meaning. In his research, he uses experimental methods and statistical/computational modeling and, occasionally, functional imaging and patient studies.

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