Word Recognition during Reading: The Interaction between Lexical Repetition and Frequency

By Lowder, Matthew W.; Choi, Wonil et al. | Memory & Cognition, July 2013 | Go to article overview

Word Recognition during Reading: The Interaction between Lexical Repetition and Frequency


Lowder, Matthew W., Choi, Wonil, Gordon, Peter C., Memory & Cognition


Published online: 3 January 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract Memory studies utilizing long-term repetition priming have generally demonstrated that priming is greater for low-frequency than for high-frequency words and that this effect persists if words intervene between the prime and the target. In contrast, word-recognition studies utilizing masked short-term repetition priming have typically shown that the magnitude of repetition priming does not differ as a function of word frequency and does not persist across intervening words. We conducted an eyetracking-whilereading experiment to determine which of these patterns more closely resembles the relationship between frequency and repetition during the natural reading of a text. Frequency was manipulated using proper names that were either high-frequency (e.g., Stephen) or low-frequency (e.g., Dominic). The critical name was later repeated in the sentence, or a new name was introduced. First-pass reading times and skipping rates on the critical name revealed robust repetition-by-frequency interactions, such that the magnitude of the repetition-priming effect was greater for low-frequency than for high-frequency names. In contrast, measures of later processing showed effects of repetition that did not depend on lexical frequency. These results are interpreted within a framework that conceptualizes eye-movement control as being influenced in different ways by lexical- and discourse-level factors.

Keywords Sentence processing · Word recognition · Repetition priming · Eye movements · Reading

Efforts to understand how word repetition facilitates lexical processing have been prominent in the development of general cognitive models of both memory and word recognition. Memory studies have typically utilized tasks that demonstrate long-term repetition priming. For example, participants might be given a list of words to study and then later have to perform a lexical-decision task in which some words are repeated from the study phase. Responses tend to be faster to the repeated than to the new words-an effect that can last for hours or even days (e.g., Scarborough, Córtese, & Scarborough, 1977). In contrast, word-recognition studies have typically utilized tasks that demonstrate short-term repetition priming. In these tasks, a prime word is flashed very briefly and is immediately followed by a target word. Even though participants do not notice the prime, responses to the target tend to be faster when it is the same word as the prime (e.g., Forster & Davis, 1984).

Traditionally, long-term and short-term repetition priming have been treated as different phenomena that should be explained in different ways. Long-term priming effects, as studied in relation to implicit memory, have typically been explained as resulting from creation during the study phase of distinct perceptual representations in episodic memory that later contribute to the enhanced identification of repeated items in the test phase (Jacoby, 1983; Jacoby & Dallas, 1981; Roediger & Blaxton, 1987; Schacter, 1990; Tulving & Schacter, 1990; see Tenpenny, 1995, for a review). In contrast, short-term priming tasks, which are designed to better understand the very early stages of word identification, tend to assume that episodic memory and other strategic processes do not play a role in masked priming effects. Instead, the briefly presented prime is believed to cause a temporary change in the basic mechanisms of word recognition that leads to more efficient processing of the target if there is a relationship between the prime and the target (Evett & Humphreys, 1981; Forster, 1998, 1999; Forster & Davis, 1984, 1991). More recently, the notion that long-term and short-term priming phenomena reflect distinct cognitive mechanisms has been called into question. According to one account, both types of repetition priming can be explained in terms of episodic retrieval mechanisms (Bodner & Masson, 2001; Masson & Bodner, 2003). …

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