Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 45–52

Reexamining the word length effect in visual word recognition: New evidence from the English Lexicon Project


    • Université René Descartes-Paris 5
  • Ludovic ferrand
    • Université René Descartes-Paris 5
  • Christophe pallier
    • INSERM, U562 Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot
  • Marc brysbaert
    • Royal HollowayUniversity of London

DOI: 10.3758/BF03193811

Cite this article as:
New, B., ferrand, L., pallier, C. et al. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (2006) 13: 45. doi:10.3758/BF03193811


In the present study, we reexamined the effect of word length (number of letters in a word) on lexical decision. Using the English Lexicon Project, which is based on a large data set of over 40,481 words (Balota et al., 2002), we performed simultaneous multiple regression analyses on a selection of 33,006 English words (ranging from 3 to 13 letters in length). Our analyses revealed an unexpected pattern of results taking the form of a U-shaped curve. The effect of number of letters was facilitatory for words of 3–5 letters, null for words of 5–8 letters, and inhibitory for words of 8–13 letters. We also showed that printed frequency, number of syllables, and number of orthographic neighbors all made independent contributions. The length effects were replicated in a new analysis of a subset of 3,833 monomorphemic nouns (ranging from 3 to 10 letters), and also in another analysis based on 12,987 bisyllabic items (ranging from 3 to 9 letters). These effects were independent of printed frequency, number of syllables, and number of orthographic neighbors. Furthermore, we also observed robust linear inhibitory effects of number of syllables. Implications for models of visual word recognition are discussed.

Download to read the full article text

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2006