Complex structures and semantics in free word association

Abstract : We investigate the directed and weighted complex network of free word associations in which players write a word in response to another word given as input. We analyze in details two large datasets resulting from two very different experiments: On the one hand the massive multiplayer web-based Word Association Game known as Human Brain Cloud, and on the other hand the South Florida Free Association Norms experiment. In both cases, the networks of associations exhibit quite robust properties like the small world property, a slight assortativity and a strong asymmetry between in-degree and out-degree distributions. A particularly interesting result concerns the existence of a characteristic scale for the word association process, arguably related to specific conceptual contexts for each word. After mapping, the Human Brain Cloud network onto the WordNet semantics network, we point out the basic cognitive mechanisms underlying word associations when they are represented as paths in an underlying semantic network. We derive in particular an expression describing the growth of the HBC graph and we highlight the existence of a characteristic scale for the word association process.
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Advances in Complex Systems, World Scientific, 2012, 15, pp.1250054
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Pietro Gravino, Vito Servedio, Alain Barrat, Vittorio Loreto. Complex structures and semantics in free word association. Advances in Complex Systems, World Scientific, 2012, 15, pp.1250054. 〈hal-00701709〉

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