Monday, November 23, 2009

the word or pseudoword "perved"

Don't worry! IPhOD has not been hacked again - the title alludes to a comment by an anonymous grad student who participated in one of my experiments recently. 

One item presented during the pseudoword detection task was pronounced perved, as if there were a past tense of the colloquial abbreviation for the noun: pervert. These sorts of pseudowords are always a hot item with subjects, since these sorts of items may evoke any number of representations or processes in the course of making the tough call - did I just hear a word or a pseudoword? When you are using pseudowords that are generated to highly resemble English words, it is inevitable that subjects will hear slang or potential slang.

A brief debate followed the experiment. I argued with the participant that perved is definitely not an English word, plain and simple - you cannot apply past tense to a noun in this way. More importantly, we are not including pseudoword trials in the analysis - so the effect of such items is to challenge subjects and hopefully keep them engaged in the otherwise boring task.

However, it only took one hour in New York city to be proven wrong. Almost immediately after that conversation, I went out for lunch and along the way, a strange looking man walked by me, making unusual faces and articulating some disturbing noises. I sped up my pace and got out of there! Based on this incident though, it seems that you can actually be perved by someone. While the pseudoword in question seems meaningless in Southern California, perved appears to be a legitimate, meaningful word in the Big Apple! 

It is all about context, so choose your pseudowords carefully! Hopefully this guy wasn't my next subject...

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