An interpretable measure of semantic similarity for predicting eye movements in reading

Sun Kun, Wang Qiuying, Lu Xiaofei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predictions about upcoming content play an important role during language comprehension and processing. Semantic similarity as a metric has been used to predict how words are processed in context in language comprehension and processing tasks. This study proposes a novel, dynamic approach for computing contextual semantic similarity, evaluates the extent to which the semantic similarity measures computed using this approach can predict fixation durations in reading tasks recorded in a corpus of eye-tracking data, and compares the performance of these measures to that of semantic similarity measures computed using the cosine and Euclidean methods. Our results reveal that the semantic similarity measures generated by our approach are significantly predictive of fixation durations on reading and outperform those generated by the two existing approaches. The findings of this study contribute to a better understanding of how humans process words in context and make predictions in language comprehension and processing. The effective and interpretable approach to computing contextual semantic similarity proposed in this study can also facilitate further explorations of other experimental data on language comprehension and processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1227-1242
Number of pages16
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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