Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Activation of Distractor Names in the Picture-Picture Interference Paradigm

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Activation of Distractor Names in the Picture-Picture Interference Paradigm

Article excerpt

In four experiments, participants named target pictures that were accompanied by distractor pictures with phonologically related or unrelated names. Across experiments, the type of phonological relationship between the targets and the related distractors was varied: They were homophones (e.g., bat [animal/baseball]), or they shared word-initial segments (e.g., dog-doll) or word-final segments (e.g., ball-wall). The participants either named the objects after an extensive familiarization and practice phase or without any familiarization or practice. In all of the experiments, the mean target-naming latency was shorter in the related than in the unrelated condition, demonstrating that the phonological form of the name of the distractor picture became activated. These results are best explained within a cascaded model of lexical access-that is, under the assumption that the recognition of an object leads to the activation of its name.

In order to produce a word, in isolation or as part of a longer utterance, speakers must select a concept to be referred to and retrieve the corresponding lexical information from the mental lexicon. Lexical access-the retrieval of a word from the mental lexicon-is commonly viewed as consisting of two main components: First, speakers select a word unit (sometimes called a lemma; see, e.g., Levelt, 1989) and then they retrieve the associated word form-that is, the morphological, phonological, and phonetic information (see, e.g., Butterworth, 1989; Garrett, 1980; Levelt, 1989). Evidence for the distinction between lexical selection and word form retrieval comes from a variety of sources, including, for instance, the occurrence of tip-of-the-tongue states, in which speakers have a strong feeling of knowing a word, have access to its meaning and syntactic properties (e.g., its grammatical gender), but cannot retrieve the complete phonological form (see, e.g., Brown & McNeill, 1966; Vigliocco, Antonini, & Garrett, 1997; for reviews, see Levelt, 1999; Levelt, Roelofs, & Meyer, 1999; Rapp & Goldrick, 2000).

A much debated question concerns the information flow during word planning. According to serial stage models of lexical access, word planning consists of a set of stages, which are completed in a specific order. This view entails that a late processing stage commences only after the preceding stage has been completed and has delivered its output (see, e.g., Bloem & La Heij, 2003; Levelt, 1989; Levelt etal., 1999; Roelofs, 1992, 1997). An alternative position, endorsed by cascaded models of lexical access, is that word planning consists of processing steps that are temporally ordered but may overlap in time (Caramazza, 1997; Dell, 1986; Dell, Burger, & Svec, 1997; Humphreys, Riddoch, & Quinlan, 1988; MacKay, 1987; Stemberger, 1985). The theoretical importance of this question derives from its link to the general modularity debate within psychology and cognitive science (Fodor, 1983)-that is, the question whether complex cognitive processes should be viewed as sets of independent modules, and if this is so, how the modules should be defined.

Much of the empirical work on the information flow during lexical access has concerned the conditions for the activation of word form information. The basic question is this: Does every concept that is activated in a speaker's mind automatically activate the corresponding name in the mental lexicon (provided that a name exists), or is name activation restricted in some way? When speakers want to refer to an object (e.g., a car), they need to decide what to call it. During this process, several concepts (e.g., car, limousine, taxi) may become activated, and the speaker must select the most suitable one (see, e.g., Dell, 1986; Levelt, 1989). According to cascaded models of lexical access, each of these candidate concepts sends some activation to the associated lexical units and word forms. By contrast, in serial stage models, word form access is restricted to selected units. …

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