Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Does Conal Prime CANAL More Than Cinal? Masked Phonological Priming Effects in Spanish with the Lexical Decision Task

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Does Conal Prime CANAL More Than Cinal? Masked Phonological Priming Effects in Spanish with the Lexical Decision Task

Article excerpt

Evidence for an early involvement of phonology in word identification usually relies on the comparison between a target word preceded by a homophonic prime and an orthographic control (rait-RATE vs. raut-RATE). This comparison rests on the assumption that the two control primes are equally orthographically similar to the target. Here, we tested for phonological effects with a masked priming paradigm in which orthographic similarity between priming conditions was perfectly controlled at the letter level and in which identification of the prime was virtually at chance for both stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) (66 and 50 msec). In the key prime-target pairs, each prime differed from the target by one vowel letter, but one changed the sound of the initial c, and the other did not (cinal-CANAL vs. conal-CANAL). In the control prime-target pairs, the primes had the identical vowel manipulation, but neither changed the initial consonant sound (pinel-PANEL vs. ponel-PANEL). For both high- and low-frequency words, lexical decision responses to the target were slower when the prime changed the sound of the c than when it did not, whereas there was no difference for the controls at both SOAs. However, this phonological effect was small and was not significant when the SOA was 50 msec. The pattern of data is consistent with an early phonological coding of primes that occurs just a little later than orthographic coding.

One important, and controversial, issue in cognitive psychology is the delimitation of the role of phonology in visual word recognition and reading. A growing body of evidence has accumulated in the past two decades showing that phonological information can be obtained automatically and early in the process of word recognition (for reviews, see Frost, 1998; Rayner, 1998). However, there is still an active debate as to whether phonological codes are always involved in the process of lexical access (see, e.g., Daneman & Reingold, 2000; Shen & Forster, 1999). In some models, the process of identifying visual words necessarily involves the computation of phonology (e.g., Van Orden, Pennington, & Stone, 1990), whereas in others, words can be identified via an orthographic code without necessarily resorting to the computation of phonology (e.g., the dual-route cascaded [DRC] model of Coltheart, Rastle, Perry, Langdon, & Ziegler, 2001, or the search model of Forster, 1976).

One of the most fruitful paradigms for examining phonological effects in visual word recognition and reading is priming. The typical test for a phonological effect is whether a homophonic prime (e.g., rait) speeds response times (RTs) to a target (e.g., RATE) more than an orthographic control (e.g., raut) does. However, this procedure clearly rests on the assumption that the homophone and the control are equally orthographically similar to the target. Another concern in priming experiments is whether the effects observed are due to speeded encoding of the target word or to separate encoding of the prime, which may influence later decision or response stages in the processing of the target word. To minimize such postaccess phenomena, researchers have often opted to mask the prime in order to make it largely unavailable for conscious report. One such technique, employed here, is the masked priming technique (Forster & Davis, 1984; Forster, Mohan, & Hector, 2003), in which the prime is briefly presented between two masking stimuli. Initially, there is a forward mask (usually a string of meaningless characters), followed by a brief (approximately 33-66 msec) presentation of the prime, followed by the target, which also serves as a backward mask. The preferred task is the lexical decision task, rather than the naming task, because the naming task may have an intrinsic phonological component independent of lexical access.

A finding that a prime facilitates the processing of a phonologically related target word, relative to the control condition (under the conditions described above), should provide strong empirical support for the automatic prelexical involvement of phonology in visual word recognition. …

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