Cognitive modelling of concepts in the mental lexicon with multilayer networks: Insights, advancements, and future challenges

Massimo Stella, Salvatore Citraro, Giulio Rossetti, Daniele Marinazzo, Yoed N. Kenett, Michael S. Vitevitch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The mental lexicon is a complex cognitive system representing information about the words/concepts that one knows. Over decades psychological experiments have shown that conceptual associations across multiple, interactive cognitive levels can greatly influence word acquisition, storage, and processing. How can semantic, phonological, syntactic, and other types of conceptual associations be mapped within a coherent mathematical framework to study how the mental lexicon works? Here we review cognitive multilayer networks as a promising quantitative and interpretative framework for investigating the mental lexicon. Cognitive multilayer networks can map multiple types of information at once, thus capturing how different layers of associations might co-exist within the mental lexicon and influence cognitive processing. This review starts with a gentle introduction to the structure and formalism of multilayer networks. We then discuss quantitative mechanisms of psychological phenomena that could not be observed in single-layer networks and were only unveiled by combining multiple layers of the lexicon: (i) multiplex viability highlights language kernels and facilitative effects of knowledge processing in healthy and clinical populations; (ii) multilayer community detection enables contextual meaning reconstruction depending on psycholinguistic features; (iii) layer analysis can mediate latent interactions of mediation, suppression, and facilitation for lexical access. By outlining novel quantitative perspectives where multilayer networks can shed light on cognitive knowledge representations, including in next-generation brain/mind models, we discuss key limitations and promising directions for cutting-edge future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Cognition
  • Cognitive data science
  • Cognitive modelling
  • Knowledge modelling
  • Multilayer networks
  • Multiplex networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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