Loose but Normal: A Semantic Association Study

Mohr, Christine ; Graves, Roger ; Gianotti, Lorena ; Pizzagalli, Diego ; Brugger, Peter

In: Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 2001, vol. 30, no. 5, p. 475-483

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    An abnormal facilitation of the spreading activation within semantic networks is thought to underlie schizophrenics' remote associations and referential ideas. In normal subjects, elevated magical ideation (MI) has also been associated with a style of thinking similar to that of schizotypal subjects. We thus wondered whether normal subjects with a higher MI score would judge "loose associations” as being more closely related than do subjects with a lower MI score. In two experiments, we investigated whether judgments of the semantic distance between stimulus words varied as a function of MI. In the first experiment, random word pairs of two word classes, animals and fruits, were presented. Subjects had to judge the semantic distance between word pairs. In the second experiment, sets of three words were presented, consisting of a pair of indirectly related, or unrelated nouns plus a third noun. Subjects had to judge the semantic distance of the third noun to the word pair. The results of both experiments showed that higher MI subjects considered unrelated words as more closely associated than did lower MI subjects. We conjecture that for normal subjects high on MI "loose associations” may not be loose after all. We also note that the tendency to link uncommon, nonobvious, percepts may not only be the basis of paranormal and paranoid ideas of reference, but also a prerequisite of creative thinking