Semantics in Developmental Psychology
According to the “Semantic Differential” the connotative meaning of words can be quantified in statistically defined dimensions where every word is uniquely located on the dimensions Evaluation (E), Potency (P), and Activity (A). We studied 249 children between 9 and 18 years of age who rated 72 German nouns on 12 bipolar adjective scales. Three age groups were compared: 9–11, 12–14, and 15–18 years. Varimax-rotated factor analysis yielded the classical EPA dimensions that were independent of age. This indicates that the basic structure and dimensionality of the semantic space is stable. On the other hand, the connotative meaning of individual words changed with age, and it was also affected by gender. In about half of the cases boys differed in their ratings from girls. Our data confirm that the EPA structure is stable, and is not affected by age. Development of connotative meaning or emotion is reflected, however, by systematic changes of the factor scores of individual words over the 10 years span studied.