Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 1186–1193 | Cite as

Bedding down new words: Sleep promotes the emergence of lexical competition in visual word recognition

  • Hua-Chen Wang
  • Greg Savage
  • M. Gareth Gaskell
  • Tamara Paulin
  • Serje Robidoux
  • Anne Castles
Brief Report


Lexical competition processes are widely viewed as the hallmark of visual word recognition, but little is known about the factors that promote their emergence. This study examined for the first time whether sleep may play a role in inducing these effects. A group of 27 participants learned novel written words, such as banara, at 8 am and were tested on their learning at 8 pm the same day (AM group), while 29 participants learned the words at 8 pm and were tested at 8 am the following day (PM group). Both groups were retested after 24 hours. Using a semantic categorization task, we showed that lexical competition effects, as indexed by slowed responses to existing neighbor words such as banana, emerged 12 h later in the PM group who had slept after learning but not in the AM group. After 24 h the competition effects were evident in both groups. These findings have important implications for theories of orthographic learning and broader neurobiological models of memory consolidation.


Visual word recognition Lexical competition Word learning Lexical consolidation Sleep 


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hua-Chen Wang
    • 1
  • Greg Savage
    • 1
  • M. Gareth Gaskell
    • 2
  • Tamara Paulin
    • 1
  • Serje Robidoux
    • 1
  • Anne Castles
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive Science, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its DisordersMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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