Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 517–525 | Cite as

Effects of the psycholinguistic variables on the lexical decision task in Spanish: A study with 2,765 words

  • María González-NostiEmail author
  • Analía Barbón
  • Javier Rodríguez-Ferreiro
  • Fernando Cuetos


In order to explore the role of the main psycholinguistic variables on visual word recognition, several mega-studies have been conducted in English in recent years. Nevertheless, because the effects of these variables depend on the regularity of the orthographic system, studies must also be done in other languages with different characteristics. The goal of this work was to conduct a lexical decision study in Spanish, a language with a shallow orthography and a high number of words. The influence of psycholinguistic variables on latencies corresponding to 2,765 words was assessed by means of linear mixed-effects modeling. The results show that some variables, such as frequency or age of acquisition, have significant effects on reaction times regardless of the type of words used. Other variables, such as orthographic neighborhood or imageability, were significant only in specific groups of words. Our results highlight the importance of taking into account the peculiarities of each spelling system in the development of reading models.


Spanish Lexical decision Age of acquisition Word frequency Length 



This research was supported by Grant MCI-PSI2009-09299 from the Spanish Government. We thank the Statistical Consulting Unit (UCE) of the University of Oviedo for their help with the statistical analyzes and their valuable suggestions about the methodology.


  1. Acha, J., & Perea, M. (2008). The effects of length and transposed-letter similarity in lexical decision: Evidence with beginning, intermediate, and adult readers. British Journal of Psychology, 99, 245–264.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alija, M., & Cuetos, F. (2006). Efecto de las variables léxico-semánticas en el reconocimiento visual de palabras. Psicothema, 18, 485–491.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Álvarez, B., & Cuetos, F. (2007). Objective age of acquisition norms for a set of 328 words in Spanish. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 377–383.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baayen, R. H., Davidson, D. J., & Bates, D. M. (2008). Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 390–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balota, D. A., Cortese, M. J., Sergent-Marshall, S. D., Spieler, D. H., & Yap, M. J. (2004). Visual word recognition of single-syllable words. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 133, 283–316.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Balota, D. A., Yap, M. J., Cortese, M. J., Hutchison, K. A., Kessler, B., Loftus, B., ... Treiman, R. (2007). The English lexicon project: A user’s guide. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 445–459.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burani, C., Arduino, L. S., & Barca, L. (2007). Frequency, not age of acquisition, affects Italian word naming. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19, 828–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carreiras, M., Álvarez, C. J., & de Vega, M. (1993). Syllable frequency and visual word recognition in Spanish. Journal of Memory and Language, 32, 766–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carreiras, M., Perea, M., & Grainger, J. (1997). Effecs of orthographic neighborhood in visual word recognition: cross-task comparisons. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 23, 857–871.Google Scholar
  10. Chumbley, J. I., & Balota, D. A. (1984). A word's meaning affects the decision in lexical decision. Memory & Cognition, 12, 590–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coltheart, M. (1981). Disorders of reading and their implications for models of normal reading. Visible Language, 15, 245–286.Google Scholar
  12. Coltheart, M., Rastle, K., Perry, C., Langdon, R., & Ziegler, J. (2001). DRC: A dual route cascaded model of visual word recognition and reading aloud. Psychological Review, 108, 204–256.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cortese, M. J. & Schock, J. (2012). Imageability and age of acquisition effects in disyllabic word recognition. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 127Google Scholar
  14. Cuetos, F., & Barbón, A. (2006). Word naming in Spanish. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 18, 415–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cuetos, F., Barbón, A., Urrutia, M., & Domínguez, A. (2009). Determining the time course of lexical frequency and age of acquisition using ERP. Clinical Neurophysiology, 120, 285–294.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davies, R., Barbón, A., & Cuetos, F. (2013). Lexical and semantic age-of-acquisition effects on word naming in Spanish. Memory & Cognition, 41, 297–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fitzmaurice, G. M., Laird, N. M., & Ware, J. H. (2004). Applied Longitudinal Analysis, Wiley Series in Probability and Statistics. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  18. Frauenfelder, U. H., Baayen, R. H., Hellwing, F. M., & Schreuder, R. (1993). Neighborhood density and frequency across languages and modalities. Journal of Memory and Language, 32, 781–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frost, R., Katz, L., & Bentin, S. (1987). Strategies for visual word recognition and orthographic depth: A multilingual comparison. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance, 13, 104–115.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ghyselinck, M., Lewis, M. B., & Brysbaert, M. (2004). Age of acquisition and the cumulative-frequency hypothesis: A review of the literature and a new multitask investigation. Acta Psychologica, 115, 43–67.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Juhasz, B. J. (2005). Age-of-acquisition effects in word and picture identification. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 684–712.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Juphard, A., Carbonnel, S., & Valdois, S. (2004). Lenght effect in reading and lexical decision: Evidence from skilled readers and a developmental dyslexia participant. Brain and Language, 55, 332–340.Google Scholar
  23. Kuperman, V., Schreuder, R., Bertram, R., & Baayen, R. H. (2009). Reading polimorphemic Dutch compounds: Toward a multiple route model of lexical processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance, 35, 876–895.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Martens, V. E., & de Jong, P. F. (2006). The effect of word length on lexical decision in dyslexic and normal reading children. Brain and Language, 98, 140–149.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Morrison, C. M., & Ellis, A. W. (2000). Real age of acquisition effects in word naming and lexical decision. British Journal of Psychology, 91, 167–180.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Morrison, C. M., Ellis, A. W., & Chappell, T. D. (1997). Age of acquisition norms for a large set of object names and their relation to adult estimates and other variables. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 50A, 528–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. New, B., Ferrand, L., Pallier, C., & Brysbaert, M. (2006). Re-examining the word length effect in visual word recognition: New evidence from the English lexicon project. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13, 45–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pérez, M. A., Alameda, J. R., & Cuetos, F. (2003). Frecuencia, longitud y vecindad ortográfica de las palabras de 3 a 16 letras del Diccionario de la Lengua Española (RAE, 1992) [Frequency, length and orthographic neighbourhood of 3 to 16 letter words in the Dictionary of the Spanish Language (RAE, 1992)]. Revista Electrónica de Metodología Aplicada, 8, 1–10.Google Scholar
  29. Pinheiro, J. C., & Bates, D. M. (2000). Mixed-Effects Models in S and S-Plus. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Plaut, D. C., McClelland, J. L., Seidenberg, M. S., & Patterson, K. E. (1996). Understanding normal and impaired reading: Computational principles in quasi-regular domains. Psychological Review, 103, 56–115.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. R Development Core Team (2011). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. Accessed 3 Sept 2013.
  32. Schwanenflugel, P. J., Harnishfeger, K. K., & Stowe, R. W. (1988). Context availability and lexical decisions for abstract and concrete words. Journal of Memory and Language, 27, 499–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sebastián, N., Martí, M. A., Carreiras, M. F., & Cuetos, F. (2000). LEXESP, Léxico informatizado del español [Computerized lexicon of Spanish]. Barcelona: Edíciones de la Universitat de Barcelona.Google Scholar
  34. Sokal, R. R., & Rohlf, F. J. (1995). Biometry. The principles and practice of statistics in biological research. New York: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  35. Spieler, D. H., & Balota, D. A. (1997). Bringing computational models of word naming down to the item level. Psychological Science, 8, 411–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Treiman, R., Mullennix, J., Bijeljac-Babic, R., & Richmond-Welty, E. D. (1995). The special role of rimes in the description, use, and acquisition of English orthography. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 124, 107–136.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zar, J. H. (1999). Biostatistical analysis. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  38. Ziegler, J. C., & Goswami, U. (2005). Reading acquisition, developmental dyslexia, and skilled reading across languages: A psycholinguistic grain size theory. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 3–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zuur, A. F., Ieno, E. N., Walker, N. J., Saveliev, A. A., & Smith, G. M. (2009). Mixed Effects Models and Extensions in Ecology with R (Statistics for Biology and Health). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • María González-Nosti
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Analía Barbón
    • 2
  • Javier Rodríguez-Ferreiro
    • 3
  • Fernando Cuetos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OviedoOviedoSpain
  2. 2.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of GranadaGranadaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Basic PsychologyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Facultad de PsicologíaOviedoSpain

Personalised recommendations