Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Selective and Nonselective Inhibition of Competitors in Picture Naming

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Selective and Nonselective Inhibition of Competitors in Picture Naming

Article excerpt

Published online: 29 May 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract The present study examined the relation between nonselective inhibition and selective inhibition in picture naming performance. Nonselective inhibition refers to the ability to suppress any unwanted response, whereas selective inhibition refers to the ability to suppress specific competing responses. The degree of competition in picture naming was manipulated by presenting targets along with distractor words that could be semantically related (e.g., a picture of a dog combined with the word cat) or unrelated (tree) to the picture name. The mean naming response time (RT) was longer in the related than in the unrelated condition, reflecting semantic interference. Delta plot analyses showed that participants with small mean semantic interference effects employed selective inhibition more effectively than did participants with larger semantic interference effects. The participants were also tested on the stop-signal task, which taps nonselective inhibition. Their performance on this task was correlated with their mean naming RT but, importantly, not with the selective inhibition indexed by the delta plot analyses and the magnitude of the semantic interference effect. These results indicate that nonselective inhibition ability and selective inhibition of competitors in picture naming are separable to some extent.

Keywords Delta plot * Lexical access * Nonselective inhibition * Picture-word interference * Selective inhibition

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A key component of the human ability to speak is the retrieval of words from the mental lexicon. This process, called lexical access, has been widely studied using a range of different paradigms, including analyses of speech errors in healthy and brain-damaged speakers (e.g., Badecker, Miozzo, & Zanuttini, 1995; Dell, Schwartz, Martin, Saffran, & Gagnon, 1997; Goodglass, Kaplan, Weintraub, & Ackerman, 1976; Kay & Ellis, 1987), Chronometrie experiments (e.g., Schriefers, Meyer, & Levelt, 1990), brain-imaging studies (e.g., de Zubicaray, Wilson, McMahon, & Muthiah, 2001; Indefrey & Levelt, 2004), and computational modeling (e.g., Foygel & Dell, 2000). This research effort has led to the development of detailed models of lexical access (e.g., Caramazza, 1997; Dell, 1986; Levelt, 2001; Levelt, Roelofs, & Meyer, 1999; Rapp & Goldrick, 2000; Roelofs, 1992). Although differing in impor- tant ways, most models agree that lexical access to a word proceeds in two steps, the retrieval of a syntactic representation of the word (often called the lemma) and encoding of the corresponding morphological, phonological, and phonetic representations.

Speaking is a goal-directed activity. Speakers do not emit random words at random times but select words to achieve communicative goals. Thus, executive control must be in- volved in this process. Although there are a variety of conceptions of executive control processes (e.g., Baddeley, 1986; Posner & Petersen, 1990), they all agree that one important component of executive control is the ability to inhibit competing information (Miyake et al., 2000). During speaking, many thoughts may come to mind that are not to be expressed, and many words may be activated that are not included in the utterance because, for instance, they are in a language not shared by the interlocutor or because they are too general or socially inappropriate. Intuition suggests that speakers need to inhibit such concepts and words. A number of recent empirical studies have suggested the involvement of inhibition in lexical access in monolingual and bilingual spoken word production (e.g., de Zubicaray, McMahon, Eastbum, & Pringle, 2006; de Zubicaray, McMahon, Eastbum, & Wilson, 2002; de Zubicaray et al., 2001; Guo, Liu, Misra, & Kroll, 2011; Jackson, Swainson, Cunnington, & Jackson, 2001; Misra, Guo, Bobb, & Kroll, 2012; Roelofs, Piai, & Garrido Rodriguez, 2011). …

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