Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 434–439 | Cite as

When do leotards get their spots? Semantic activation of lexical neighbors in visual word recognition

  • Jennifer M. Rodd
Brief Reports


Shadowing and priming studies have provided strong evidence that during spoken word recognition, the meanings of different words that share their onset (e.g.,captain andcaptive) are activated in parallel. In contrast, for visual word recognition, there is little evidence that the meanings of visually similar words are activated in parallel. This is consistent with the idea that for reading (in contrast to listening), since all the sensory information necessary to identify a word is available at once, any competition between visually similar words is resolved before their meanings are retrieved. However, Forster and Hector (2002) have recently shown that for nonwords (e.g.,turple), some aspect of the meanings of lexical neighbors (e.g.,turtle) can be activated. However, this finding is limited to nonwords. The activation ofturtle’s meaning in response toturple may occur becauseturple has no meaning. In normal reading, we do not encounter nonwords, and there is strong pressure on the reading system to produce meaningful representations for every word (even misspelled words). The two semantic categorization experiments reported here extend this finding to real words. Participants are slower to decide thatleotard is not an animal because of its animal neighborleopard. This shows that information about a word’s meaning can be available before it has been uniquely recognized.


Word Recognition Lexical Decision Semantic Information Word Meaning Lexical Entry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeEngland

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