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This study harnessed control ratings of the contribution of different types of information (sensation, action, emotion, thought, social interaction, morality, time, space, quantity, and polarity) to 400 individual abstract and concrete verbal concepts. These abstract conceptual feature (ACF) ratings were used to generate a high dimensional semantic space, from which Euclidean distance measurements between individual concepts were extracted as a metric of the semantic relatedness of those words. The validity of these distances as a marker of semantic relatedness was then tested by evaluating whether they could predict the comprehension performance of a patient with global aphasia on two verbal comprehension tasks. It was hypothesized that if the high-dimensional space generated from ACF control ratings approximates the organization of abstract conceptual space, then words separated by small distances should be more semantically related than words separated by greater distances, and should therefore be more difficult to distinguish for the comprehension-impaired patient, SKO. SKO was significantly worse at identifying targets presented within word pairs with low ACF distances. Response accuracy was not predicted by Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) cosines, any of the individual feature ratings, or any of the background variables. It is argued that this novel rating procedure provides a window on the semantic attributes of individual abstract concepts, and that multiple cognitive systems may influence the acquisition and organization of abstract conceptual knowledge. More broadly, it is suggested that cognitive models of abstract conceptual knowledge must account for the representation not only of the relationships between abstract concepts but also of the attributes which constitute those individual concepts.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Hum Neurosci

Publication Date





abstract conceptual knowledge, emotion, multidimensional scaling, quantity