Memory & Cognition

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 685–694

The word-superiority effect and phonological recoding


DOI: 10.3758/BF03202718

Cite this article as:
Krueger, L.E. Mem Cogn (1992) 20: 685. doi:10.3758/BF03202718


Previous work indicates that the locus of the word-superiority effect in letter detection is nonvisual and that letter names, but not letter shapes, are more accessible in words than in nonwords, that is, scrambled collections of letters (e.g., Krueger & Shapiro, 1979; Krueger & Stadtlander, 1991; Massaro, 1979). The nonvisual (verbal or lexical) coding may be phonological, or it may be more abstract. In the present study, a word advantage in the speed of letter detection was found even when the target letter was silent in the six-letter test word (e.g., s inisland). Other test words varied in their frequency of occurrence in English and number of syllables (1, 2, or 3). The word advantage was larger for higher frequencywords but was not affected by syllable length. The presence of unpronounceable nonwords and silent letters in the words discouraged reliance upon the phonological code but did not thereby eliminate the word advantage. Thus, the word-superiority effect with free viewing is not based entirely upon phonological recoding.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyColumbus

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