Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Contributions of Processing Fluency to Repetition Effects in Masked Word Identification

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Contributions of Processing Fluency to Repetition Effects in Masked Word Identification

Article excerpt

Abstract Prior exposure to a word is shown to improve its later identification in a brief, masked display when a free report task is used, but not in two - alternative forced choice or single - probe matching tasks that eliminate certain bias effects and provide an assessment of discriminability. Modified forced choice and single - probe tasks were also used, in which subjects attempted to identify the target before presentation of the probe(s). This modification produced a discriminability advantage for old words, but only in the single - probe task. We argue that prior exposure does not enhance sensory processing of a target word; rather, it increases the fluency with which the target comes to mind when presented under difficult viewing conditions. In forced choice and single - probe tasks, fluency associated with processing the target may be ignored in deference to discriminating among or evaluating the processing of the probe(s).

Memory for specific prior processing episodes can, under appropriate circumstances, exert an indirect or automatic influence on the performance of certain tasks. In this article, we explore how memory for specific episodes can act automatically to influence task performance. By "automatically," we mean that subjects are not attempting to consciously recollect prior events in an effort to improve performance. Rather, their performance is influenced automatically by the consequences of retrieving a representation of an earlier, relevant event. Our goal here is to investigate how automatic retrieval of such an event comes to influence current task performance.

A useful guide for this investigation is the transfer - appropriate processing framework that Roediger and his colleagues have applied to the study of indirect influences of memory (e.g., Roediger & Srinivas, 1993; Roediger, Weldon, & Challis, 1989). According to this framework, memory for a processing episode can be beneficial for later task performance if the remembered episode and the subsequent task share processes. For example, completion of a word fragment (e.g., _l_p_a_t) is enhanced more by prior exposure to the printed word solution for the fragment (elephant) than by prior exposure to a drawing of the object denoted by that word (Weldon & Roediger, 1987). Tasks that show perceptual specificity in benefits derived from prior episodes are assumed to rely heavily on data driven processes.

Application of Jacoby's (1991) process dissociation procedure to the word stem completion task (e.g., complete the stem REA__to form a word) suggests that the automatic influence of prior study episodes on that task is highly dependent on perceptual processes (Jacoby, Toth, & Yonelinas, 1993; Toth, Reingold, & Jacoby, 1994). For instance, study episodes that involved solving an anagram or generating a target word from a semantic cue led to no reliable increase, relative to nonstudied words, in estimates of the automatic influence of memory on stem completion, whereas reading a visually presented word substantially increased estimates of the automatic parameter.

Our primary concern in this article, however, is with the effect of prior study on the masked word identification task (also known as the perceptual identification task). In this task, a target word is briefly displayed and followed by a pattern mask. The task is to identify the word. Various studies have found evidence to support the view that in this task, as in word stem and word fragment completion, effects of prior exposure are mediated by data driven processes. For example, greater enhancement has been found if target words were read as opposed to heard initially (e.g., Jacoby & Dallas, 1981; Levy & Kirsner, 1989). Moreover, Jacoby (1983b) found little or no enhanced identification of words that had been generated from their antonyms, whereas previously read words yielded marked improvement. Reinitz and Demb (1994) have argued that the masked word identification task is even more dependent on perceptual processes than the word fragment completion task. …

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