Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 511–518

Lexical activation during the recognition of Chinese characters: Evidence against early phonological activation

Brief Reports

DOI: 10.3758/BF03196186

Cite this article as:
Chen, HC. & Shu, H. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (2001) 8: 511. doi:10.3758/BF03196186


In two primed-naming experiments involving Chinese character recognition, one with native Mandarinspeaking subjects and another with native Cantonese-speaking subjects, we varied both the stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) and the prime—target similarity along various lexical dimensions. Across both experiments, the results were as follows: (1) Relatively strong and reliable semantic priming appeared very early across various SOAs, and its onset was not affected by meaning precision, (2) either homophonic priming had negligible effects on target naming or the effects appeared relatively late (only at 57 msec), and (3) graphic inhibition was found across different SOAs. Since the same set of stimuli and procedure were adopted as those in the study of Perfetti and Tan (1998), the present findings raise questions about the reliability and validity of the results from their study that have been used to support the notion that phonology is a constitutive element of character recognition and precedes meaning access in the identification process. Instead, the present results suggest that phonology is optional for accessing meaning in Chinese character recognition among skilled adult readers.

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatin, N.T.Hong Kong
  2. 2.Beijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina