Semantic Coding (Definition + Examples) - Practical Psychology (2023)

Encoding, the conversion of sensory information into memory, is an essential process that humans need for everyday tasks. Semantic encoding is one of the ways we assign meaning to the raw data around us, which can then be stored as memory and retrieved later.

Semantic encoding is a cognitive process in which we encode sensory input from our environment to give it meaning. Sensory information about our environment is converted into a meaningful way to remember. It is one of the first steps in memory encoding.

Semantic encoding is one of the best ways to remember things and retrieve them later. Several proposed models explain how concepts are organized in the brain and we use these structures to encode meaning.

What is semantic encoding?

Semantic encoding is when the braintakes information from our senses and encodes it into meaningful information🇧🇷 In this way, the perceptual aspects of the data obtained from our environment are not in the foreground.

The word encoding also needs an explanation. Encoding refers to converting sensory information into a form that can be processed and remembered. In semantic encoding, sensory information is converted into meaning that can be applied to a context.

Semantic encoding allows us to understand the world around us. It is a kind of cognitive coding that provides the experience of understanding the meaning of things we encounter in everyday life. Sensory information can come from any of our senses: touch, hearing, taste, sight, or smell.

An example is information about the meanings of words. When someone says the word /cat/ to you, you immediately know what they are referring to and can understand what it means in a given context. The meaning context of the information is essential for semantic encoding. It can affect the way we remember certain concepts.

Another meaning can be reading written information. For example, when reading the word /chá/, you can encode the meaning in the context in which it occurs, in this case a phrase or phrase. Tea refers to the context of drinking, pouring, brewing, etc.

How about a word with two different meanings like crane? It can refer to the bird or to the machinery used in construction. So if someone yells, "Look at that crane flying over there," you'll surely understand that it's the bird. Semantic encoding helps us encode what meaning is relevant using the given context.

Semantic encoding can also be linked to deep encoding, as it plays an important role in memory encoding, especially long-term memory.

Role of semantic encoding in memory

Semantic encoding is one of four types of encoding that fall under the main term: memory encoding. Memory encoding is when input from our environment is converted into a form that can be stored in the brain and retrieved in the short or long term.

Semantic encoding plays a crucial role in memory encoding, as it is the process of assigning meaning to certain items. ThisThe meaning can be stored in the brain to be remembered.whenever you need to use the information. The other three types of memory encoding are visual, auditory, and elaborate encoding.

Studies have shown that semantic encoding can make information easier to remember. Storing and retrieving memories is produced by making sense of things more easily than by not making sense of them.

Imagine reading a text message from a friend that says, "See you later." In that context, what do you know, then you meet your friend for tea. Semantic encoding ensures that, in this context, you remember the meaning of the written words, rather than just remembering the words themselves.

Another example of semantic encoding in memory is remembering a phone number based on an attribute of the person who obtained it, such as B. their name. In other words, certain associations are made between the sensory input (the phone number) and the meaning context (the person's name).

semantic coding models

Researchers have proposed some models of semantic coding to suggest how it works at the neurocognitive level.Collins and Quillian network modelit is a well-known model and can be considered one of the best understood.

Collins and Quillian network model

This model was developed around 1969, and the theory proposed a semantic network in the brain that closely resembles a spider's web. This network roughly represents information in the form of various concepts.

On the web, different nodes relate to key concepts (or meanings), and then some links between nodes make connections between concepts. For example, imagine that the central node (middle of the web) is a "mammal".

A mammal can link to various other pieces of information and receive links from other nodes. These connections are seen on the web as arrows pointing from one concept to another. For example, the mammal node may be connected to another node called "animal" with the connection between the two representing "is a" (mammal is an animal).

Another connection could be that a mammal has a vertebra. Thus, we can see that a node (mammal) can have multiple associations with other nodes (representing different meanings, such as animal or vertebra). As the web (the semantic web) continues to grow, more nodes are added and more connections are created between these nodes.

The connections between nodes are a way of organizing the network and making connections between different concepts. In a nutshell, this model proposes how meaning and information can be managed in our brain.

Furthermore, Collin and Quillian said that this semantic network works hierarchically based on linguistics (language). The central node (in this case, mammals) would be the simplest concept, leaving the web to make connections with more complex information (eddies).

Compare the model for semantic features

Un poco más tarde, en 1974, se propuso otro modelo de codificación semántica. El modelo de características semánticas sugirió que la jerarquía no es tan importante cuando queremos organizar conceptos en el cerebro, sino las características semánticas de los conceptos.

The model suggests that you compare these characteristics to determine the meaning of the information. In this model, different concepts are directly compared with each other, instead of assigning many features to one concept.

In the semantic network proposed by Collins and Quillian, the concept of cat would be linked to other concepts such as fur, four legs, pet and ears to understand that it is part of the central concept of "mammal". In this semantic trait model, the concept of a cat would only be compared to other mammals, such as an elephant, where the traits could be four legs, a wild animal, and ears.

With this theory, we can use the similarities and differences between concepts to understand what they are and make sense of them. There is no linguistic hierarchy in which one concept is more complex than another.

Criticisms of semantic coding models

While there are other semantic coding theories, these two have received a lot of attention and criticism. First, the semantic network (Collins and Quillian) has been criticized by cognitive psychologists for being too simplistic.

The suggestion was that semantic coding is more complex in its organization than a hierarchical structure of concepts and associations. However, studies could show that the semantic network model was observed empirically.

One study presented research participants with two different statements: "dolphin is an animal" and "dolphin is a fish," and measured the seconds it took them to answer "yes." The results showed that people generally took longer to respond to the more complex statement further down the linguistic hierarchy.

Therefore, in this example, the participants took longer to respond to the statement “the dolphin is an animal”. The results of this experiment showed that people react differently to certain concepts, possibly pointing to a hierarchical system of concepts and associations.

On the other hand, the main criticism of the Semantic Features model is that it has not been empirically tested to the extent that semantic networks have been.

Ways to optimize semantic encoding

We do semantic coding several times a day, every day. It is a natural way of remembering information with meaningful associations. However, not all concepts are coded in the same way. Some of the information you may find is easy to code, others may be more difficult.

There are two main strategies that we can use to optimize semantic encoding. Why should we do this? When sensory input isn't encoded correctly, it becomes harder to remember later. These techniques can help you remember certain concepts, such as B. studying a challenging topic.

Mnemonics for semantic encoding

mnemonic is aspecific technique involving a device or strategy to aid memory, as acronyms or associations. For example, a popular one uses the acronym ROYGBIV to remember the colors of the rainbow.

Another popular system is the keyword system. This system is when you associate (link) a word that you need to remember with words that are easier to remember. Words usually start with the same letter. The following is an example of theadjustment systemused to aid memory of taxonomic categories in biology (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species) - King Phillip Came Over For Good Soup.

Mnemonic music is a subcategory of mnemonics that uses music and songs to remember concepts. Due to the overlap between music and speech, musical mnemonics are a great way to aid memory and semantic encoding.

Throughout your life, you have probably used musical mnemonics several times, perhaps without realizing it. Children learn their letters and other concepts through songs. Related to this technique is the mnemonic rhyme.

As the name suggests, rhymes are used to memorize information, just like music. The rhyme creates a pattern that can take on a sung structure, helping to solidify concepts in memory.

Chunking for semantic encoding

Chunking is another way to simplify our semantic coding systems. It is about breaking large pieces of information into smaller chunks (chunks). These smaller pieces are easier to remember and are still meaningful.

Fragmentation is a versatile strategy where you can find patterns in the smaller sections that make up the whole while organizing the units into a system. An easy way to think about this is to make a shopping list. The list can contain multiple items, which is too much to remember.

However, if you break it down into smaller sections and then organize it by food department or food category, it will be easier to remember.

A piece can be thought of as one of the puzzle pieces that help put the whole puzzle together. For example, memorizing a phone number can use grouping as a technique. Break the number into smaller parts, and once you memorize each one, it will be easier to put them together.

Where is the semantic encoding in the brain?

Different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions and encode information. Neuroimaging studies have examined where certain encodings and processes occur in the brain. Research is ongoing, but prefrontal cortical regions appear to be activated during tasks that require semantic encoding.

especially theleft inferior prefrontal cortex(including Brodmann areas 45, 46, and 47) was activated during semantic encoding. Furthermore, the left temporal regions are also involved in semantic encoding.

The medial temporal lobe is involved in semantic and perceptual encoding. Activation in temporal regions applies to both verbal and nonverbal stimuli. Depending on the type of sensory input, other areas of the brain are also activated before and during semantic encoding.

The hippocampus is another brain structure that may play a role in semantic encoding. It plays a role throughout the frontal cortex, helping to process and determine incoming sensory information.


Semantic encoding is our ability to take sensory information and transform it in the brain to give it meaning. It plays an important role in memory, especially long-term memory. Several models have proposed how semantic encoding works in networks or by comparing semantic features.


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What is semantic coding in psychology? ›

the means by which the conceptual or abstract components of an object, idea, or impression are stored in memory. For example, the item typewriter could be remembered in terms of its functional meaning or properties. Compare imagery code.

What is an example of semantic encoding? ›

Another example of semantic encoding in memory is remembering a phone number based on some attribute of the person you got it from, like their name. In other words, specific associations are made between the sensory input (the phone number) and the context of the meaning (the person's name).

What is semantic encoding in psychology quizlet? ›

semantic encoding: The process of relating new information in a meaningful way to knowledge that is already stored in memory. - long-term retention is greatly enhanced by this.

What is semantic encoding AP Psychology? ›

Semantic encoding is when a word, phrase, picture, etc. is encoded on the basis of meaning rather than the sound or vision of it. Studies show that people have a better memory when using semantic encoding, since it's the deepest level of processing.

What is semantic and example? ›

Semantics is the study of meaning in language. It can be applied to entire texts or to single words. For example, "destination" and "last stop" technically mean the same thing, but students of semantics analyze their subtle shades of meaning.

What is semantic in programming with examples? ›

Semantics, roughly, are meanings given for groups of symbols: ab+c, "ab"+"c", mult(5,4). For example, to express the syntax of adding 5 with 4, we can say: Put a "+" sign in between the 5 and 4, yielding " 5 + 4 ".

What are some examples of semantic change? ›

Examples in English. Awful — Literally "full of awe", originally meant "inspiring wonder (or fear)", hence "impressive". In contemporary usage, the word means "extremely bad". Awesome — Literally "awe-inducing", originally meant "inspiring wonder (or fear)", hence "impressive".

What is a good example of semantic memory? ›

Examples of Semantic Memory

Recalling that Washington, D.C., is the U.S. capital and Washington is a state. Recalling that April 1564 is the date on which Shakespeare was born. Recalling the type of food people in ancient Egypt used to eat. Knowing that elephants and giraffes are both mammals.

What is an example of semantics in a sentence? ›

For example, in everyday use, a child might make use of semantics to understand a mom's directive to “do your chores” as, “do your chores whenever you feel like it.” However, the mother was probably saying, “do your chores right now.”

Why is semantics important in psychology? ›

Semantics mediates our ability to understand the relationship between things, as well as to analyze and categorize the world around us, giving our knowledge an order; the desire to better understand it has moved a large part of research and has opened an interdisciplinary debate, which involves various fields, from ...

Where does semantic encoding occur? ›

The left prefrontal cortex and temporal regions are involved in semantic encoding. These structures can be activated by verbal and non-verbal stimuli. Other brain areas are also sometimes activated depending on what type of information it is.

How does semantic encoding work? ›

Semantic encoding involves the use of sensory input that has a specific meaning or can be applied to a context. Chunking and mnemonics aid in semantic encoding; sometimes, deep processing and optimal retrieval occurs.

What is semantic coding in memory? ›

Semantic encoding is a specific type of encoding in which the meaning of something (a word, phrase, picture, event, whatever) is encoded as opposed to the sound or vision of it. Research suggests that we have better memory for things we associate meaning to and store using semantic encoding.

What are some examples of semantic and episodic memories? ›

Semantic memory is recall of general facts, while episodic memory is recall of personal facts. Remembering the capital of France and the rules for playing football uses semantic memory. Remembering what happened in the last game of the World Series uses episodic memory.

What are the 7 types of semantics? ›

Linguistic meaning can be broken into seven types: conceptual, connotative, collocative, social, affective, reflected and thematic.

What is semantic structure example? ›

Semantic structure is a fancy term for an organization that represents meaning. For example, an English sentence is a semantic structure. Consider the following sentence structure: subject - verb - object.

What is an example of semantic problem? ›

For example, when people say or use the word gay. One person might think its related to the sexuality of someone. There are others that say “that's gay” to them, it might mean that's sucks, or others might use the word gay as happy.

What are the two types of semantics? ›

Semantics is the study of meaning. There are two types of meaning: conceptual meaning and associative meaning.

How many types of semantic change are there? ›

There are four basic types of semantic change which on the one hand refer to the range of a word's meaning and on the other, to the way the meaning is evaluated by speakers.

What is semantic memory in psychology? ›

Semantic memory refers to our general world knowledge that encompasses memory for concepts, facts, and the meanings of words and other symbolic units that constitute formal communication systems such as language or math.

What is semantic memory in simple terms? ›

Definition. Semantic memory refers to the memory of meaning, understanding, general knowledge about the world, and other concept-based knowledge unrelated to specific experiences.

What type of memory is semantic? ›

385). Semantic memory was defined as the “memory necessary for the use of language.

What are the main types of semantics? ›

The three major types of semantics are formal, lexical, and conceptual semantics.

What is meant by the word semantics? ›

se·​man·​tics si-ˈmant-iks. : the study of meanings: : the historical and psychological study and the classification of changes in the signification of words or forms viewed as factors in linguistic development.

Why is semantics important? ›

Semantics is the study of the meaning of words. Many words have very similar meanings and it is important to be able to distinguish subtle differences between them. For example, 'anger' and 'rage' are similar in meaning (synonyms) but 'rage' implies a stronger human reaction to a situation than 'anger.

What are the two main areas of semantics? ›

"Based on the distinction between the meanings of words and the meanings of sentences, we can recognize two main divisions in the study of semantics: lexical semantics and phrasal semantics.

What is syntax example? ›

Syntax in English sets forth a specific order for grammatical elements like subjects, verbs, direct and indirect objects, etc. For example, if a sentence has a verb, direct object, and subject, the proper order is subject → verb → direct object.

What is an example of semantics in psychology? ›

Some examples of semantic memories might include: Recalling that Washington, D.C., is the U.S. capital and Washington is a state. Recalling that April 1564 is the date on which Shakespeare was born. Recalling the type of food people in ancient Egypt used to eat. Knowing that elephants and giraffes are both mammals.

What is semantic and latent coding? ›

Semantic codes and themes identify the explicit and surface meanings of the data. The researcher does not look beyond what the participant said or wrote. Conversely, latent codes or themes capture underlying ideas, patterns, and assumptions. This requires a more interpretative and conceptual orientation to the data.

What are the different types of coding psychology? ›

Types of encoding include: Visual (as an image) Acoustic (as a sound) Semantic (through its meaning)

What is an example of semantic sentence? ›

Semantics sentence example. Her speech sounded very formal, but it was clear that the young girl did not understand the semantics of all the words she was using. The advertisers played around with semantics to create a slogan customers would respond to.

What is latent coding? ›

Answer and Explanation: Latent content coding refers to the recording of the underlying meaning and interpretation of communication and/or thoughts an individual has.

What is semantic and why is it important? ›

Semantics is the study of the meaning of words. Many words have very similar meanings and it is important to be able to distinguish subtle differences between them. For example, 'anger' and 'rage' are similar in meaning (synonyms) but 'rage' implies a stronger human reaction to a situation than 'anger.

What is semantics in your own words? ›

Semantics means the meaning and interpretation of words, signs, and sentence structure. Semantics largely determine our reading comprehension, how we understand others, and even what decisions we make as a result of our interpretations.

Is a good example of semantic memory? ›

For example, using semantic memory, you know what a dog is and can read the word 'dog' and be aware of the meaning of this concept, but you do not remember where and when you first learned about a dog or even necessarily subsequent personal experiences with dogs that went into building your concept of what a dog is.


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