Cognitive style modulates semantic interference effects: evidence from field dependency

  • Raffaele NappoEmail author
  • Cristina Romani
  • Giulia De Angelis
  • Gaspare Galati
Research Article


The so-called semantic interference effect is a delay in selecting an appropriate target word in a context where semantic neighbours are strongly activated. Semantic interference effect has been described to vary from one individual to another. These differences in the susceptibility to semantic interference may be due to either differences in the ability to engage in lexical-specific selection mechanisms or to differences in the ability to engage more general, top-down inhibition mechanisms which suppress unwanted responses based on task-demands. However, semantic interference may also be modulated by an individual’s disposition to separate relevant perceptual signals from noise, such as a field-independent (FI) or a field-dependent (FD) cognitive style. We investigated the relationship between semantic interference in picture naming and in an STM probe task and both the ability to inhibit responses top-down (measured through a Stroop task) and a FI/FD cognitive style measured through the embedded figures test (EFT). We found a significant relationship between semantic interference in picture naming and cognitive style—with semantic interference increasing as a function of the degree of field dependence—but no associations with the semantic probe and the Stroop task. Our results suggest that semantic interference can be modulated by cognitive style, but not by differences in the ability to engage top-down control mechanisms, at least as measured by the Stroop task.


Lexical retrieval Semantic interference Cognitive styles Field dependence 



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Rome “Sapienza”RomeItaly
  2. 2.IRCCS Fondazione Santa LuciaRomeItaly
  3. 3.School of Life and Health SciencesAston UniversityBirminghamUK

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