Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Lori Buchanan


Aging, Developmental psychology, Psychology



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Semantic neighbourhoods are those clusters of words that have shared or related meanings. They have traditionally been difficult to operationalize because words can be related in many different ways. The present study used an operationalization of semantic neighbourhoods from a computational model of semantics derived from co-occurrences in large bodies of text (Durda & Buchanan, 2008). With this variable, the present study examined how young adults (ages 18-25) and older adults (ages 60-80) differ in their processing of semantics. Results reveal that words with rich semantic representations are processed faster than words that are less richly represented. However, words with many close neighbours were responded to more slowly than words with more dispersed neighbourhoods. In a priming experiment, close semantic neighbours led to faster processing of words compared to distant semantic neighbours. Young and older adults showed similar results on all experiments in terms neighbourhood size, density, and priming effects. The results suggest that older adults have intact semantic processing with respect to neighbourhood effects and show a similar pattern of performance to young adults.