Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Is It a Letter? Is It a Number? Processing of Numbers within SMS Shortcuts

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Is It a Letter? Is It a Number? Processing of Numbers within SMS Shortcuts

Article excerpt

For efficiency reasons, words in electronic messages are sometimes formed by combining letters with numbers, as in gr8 for "great." The aim of this study was to investigate whether a digit incorporated into a letter-digit shortcut would retain its numerosity. A priming paradigm was used with letter-digit shortcuts (e.g., gr8) and matched pseudoshortcuts (e.g., qr8) as primes. The primes were presented simultaneously with sets of dots (targets) for which even/odd decisions were required, or they appeared 250 msec before target onset. When pseudoshortcuts were presented, decision latencies were shorter when the target and the digit in the prime were matched in parity than when they were mismatched. This main effect of match was not significant for shortcuts. The results suggest that the number concepts of digits combined with letters become activated but are quickly suppressed or deactivated when the digit is part of an existing shortcut.

At the time of Sesame Street, everything was easy: l was a letter, and 8 was a number. However, as the popularity of sending messages via mobile phones and e-mail increased, so did the necessity of conveying messages more efficiently. For efficiency reasons, words in electronic messages are sometimes written as shortcuts by combining letters with numbers, as in gr8, 4ever, or l8r. The increased popularity of abbreviations and acronyms in daily communication demands more research into their mental representation and their effects on language use and diachronic language development. Recently, Perea, Acha, and Carreiras (2009) investigated how readers processed sentences written in short message service (SMS) language. They recorded the eye movements of participants reading sentences written in SMS language (e.g., my hols wr gr8) and conventionally written sentences (e.g., my holidays were great). Perea and colleagues showed that reading shortcuts was more effortful than reading conventionally written words, as indicated by longer reading times and more fixations. This suggests that processing shortcuts can be a slow and demanding task for a reader.

Some common shortcuts (e.g., gr8) include digits. One reason why these shortcuts can take longer to process is that the number concept associated with the digit might hinder the processing of the words. The goal of the present study was to investigate whether number concepts are automatically activated when digits are combined with letters to form words, as in gr8. Some of these shortcuts (e.g., 2day) resemble compound words, which are combinations of words (e.g., bedroom < bed 1 room), whereas others (e.g., h8) resemble words that include semantically unrelated embedded words (e.g., hatch with embedded hat). It has been shown that, during the processing of a compound word, the constituent morphemes initially become semantically activated, even if they are irrelevant for the understanding of the whole word (e.g., hogwash < hog 1 wash; Libben, Gibson, Yoon, & Sandra, 2003; Zwitserlood, 1994), and are then suppressed or inhibited by the activation of the stored semantic representation of the whole word (Libben, 1998). A loss of such inhibitory processes can be seen in some aphasic patients who simultaneously activate conceptual representations of constituents and whole words (e.g., yellowbelly < a yellow stomach . . . a chicken; Libben, 1998). There is also evidence that, during the visual processing of monomorphemic words, the meanings of embedded words (e.g., hat in hatch) become activated (e.g., Bowers, Davis, & Hanley, 2005; Rodd, 2004).

Embedded digits have also been shown to activate their meanings. For example, a study using the numerical Stroop paradigm, in which participants compared simultaneously presented Arabic digits with respect either to their printed size or to the indicated magnitude, showed automatic access to magnitude information both in adults (e.g., Pinel, Piazza, Le Bihan, & Dehaene, 2004) and in children (e. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.