McCann, R., Armstrong, B. C., Reynolds, M.*, & Besner, D. (2022).  New analyses of lexical influences on the processing of pseudo-homophones in the lexical decision task: Still more challenges for models of visual word recognition.  Proceedings of the 2022 Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.  


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New analyses of pseudo-homophone RTs (e.g., BRANE) from two published lexical decision studies clarify lexical involvement in pseudo-homophone processing and challenge widespread assumptions about word frequency effects. First, RTs increased along with increases in the proportion of base-word letters that appeared in the pseudo-homophone (e.g., WHELT-WELT slower than PHAWT – FOUGHT) suggesting that “No” decision-making is slowed by mutually reinforcing activation in phonological and orthographic representations of base word knowledge. Second, effects of base-word frequency were either extremely weak or nonexistent among pseudo-homophones that contained most or all the letters that make up their base word. In contrast, among pseudo-homophones that shared fewer letters with their base word (e.g., “PHAWT”), RTs for items derived from high-frequency base words were faster than RTs for items derived from low-frequency base words. These findings (i) challenge the ubiquitous assumption that lexical representations are frequency sensitive and (ii) suggest that lexical decision involves a spell-check.

Keywords: Pseudo-homophones; Orthographic Similarity; Lexical Decision; Word-Frequency Effects

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