In neuropsychological assessment, semantic fluency is a widely accepted measure of executive function and access to semantic memory. While fluency scores are typically reported as the number of unique words produced, several alternative manual scoring methods have been proposed that provide additional insights into performance, such as clusters of semantically related items. Many automatic scoring methods yield metrics that are difficult to relate to the
theories behind manual scoring methods, and most require manually-curated linguistic ontologies or large corpus infrastructure. In this paper, we propose a novel automatic scoring method based on Wikipedia, Backlink-VSM, which is easily adaptable to any of the 61 languages with more than 100k Wikipedia entries, can account for cultural differences in semantic relatedness, and covers
a wide range of item categories. Our Backlink-VSM method combines relational knowledge as represented by links between Wikipedia entries (Backlink model) with a semantic proximity metric derived from distributional representations (vector space model; VSM). Backlink-VSM yields measures that approximate manual clustering and switching analyses, providing a straightforward
link to the substantial literature that uses these metrics. We illustrate our approach with examples from two languages (English and Korean), and two commonly used categories of items (animals and fruits). For both Korean and English, we show that the measures generated by our automatic scoring procedure correlate well with manual annotations. We also successfully replicate findings that older adults produce significantly fewer switches compared to younger adults. Furthermore, our automatic scoring procedure outperforms the manual scoring method and a WordNet-based model in separating younger and older participants measured by binary classification accuracy for both English and Korean datasets. Our method also generalizes to a different category (fruit),
demonstrating its adaptability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1020
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2019


  • verbal fluency
  • semantic fluency
  • executive functions
  • semantic memory
  • word embeddings
  • relation extraction
  • category fluency test


Dive into the research topics of 'Automatic scoring of semantic fluency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this