The Brandeis Memory and Cognition Lab Goodness of Fit Ratings for 1476 English Words and 123 Sentence Frames

Deborah M. Little, Kristen J. Prentice, and Arthur Wingfield
Brandeis University, Waltham MA

What this site provides:

  1. Brief description of the semantic fit norms database
  2. The database

For a full description of the methods and results and to cite the database:

Little, D.M., Prentice, K.P. & Wingfield, A. Adults age differences in judgments of semantic fit. Submitted, Applied Psycholinguistics.


A total of 130 young adults and 173 older adults gave goodness of fit ratings for sets of word alternatives for 123 English sentence frames. Word alternatives were in all cases semantically plausible but varied in the likelihood of their occurrence within the sentence frames. Adding support to the general belief that vocabulary and language knowledge are well preserved in normal aging our results showed generally high agreement in goodness of fit ratings by the young and older adults. Differences that did occur appeared to be due to cohort differences in word usage and interests rather than to differences in underlying cognitive function. We suggest that this similarity in semantic judgments may help to explain why adult age differences in comprehension and memory for sentences are generally smaller than age differences for other examples of episodic memory.

Description of the database

The stimuli consisted of 123 sentence frames ranging from 8 to 10 words in length. Twelve versions of each sentence were prepared which were identical in all regards except for a single target word. Across the 123 stimulus sentences the target word was always located between 2 and 5 words from the end of the sentence. Following each sentence frame and each exemplar, mean ratings averaged over both the young and older raters (1 = a least expected word, 9 = a most expected word) for each target word for each sentence frame are listed in decreasing order of goodness of fit. (Standard deviations are given in parentheses.) This is followed by the group means for the young and older participants separately. Single asterisks presented at the end of each row indicate a significant difference between the mean ratings for the young and older participants with a liberal threshold of p<.01 with no correction for multiple comparisons. Comparisons meeting this more conservative Bonferroni criterion are indicated by two asterisks. Sentence frames that produced significant ordering differences are indicated with a "#" prior to the sentence. Following the sentence, the level of significance of this ordering difference is presented.