Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Lee H. Wurm


Most research supports a non-selective (or exhaustive) account of activation whereby multiple meanings of a word are initially activated (as discussed in Degani & Tokowicz, 2009). But what happens to the non-selected meaning of an ambigious word (e.g., bark) and how is the decision made to select one meaning over the other? A great deal research by Gernsbacher and colleagues suggests that the non-selected meaning is "discarded" via active suppression, but a competing activation-only account is also proposed by Gorfein's research group. The present dissertation examines meaning-selection in ambiguous words using a word to elicit meaning context (rather than a sentence). Additionally, manipulations of perceptual focus (Experiment 2) and cognitive load (Experiment 3) were employed to examine these processes. Results agree with Gernsbacher's Structure-Building Framework (a suppression account) of meaning selection. An updated conceptualization of ambiguity resolution is proposed.