How should a word's orthographic neighborhood affect perceptual identification and semantic categorization, both of which require a word to be uniquely identified? According to the multiple read-out model (Grainger & Jacobs, 1996), inhibitory neighborhood frequency effects should be observed in these types of tasks, and facilitatory neighborhood size effects should not be. In Experiments 1 and 2 (perceptual identification), these effects were examined as a function of stimulus visibility (i.e., high vs. low visibility) to provide as full a test as possible of the model's predictions. In the high-visibility conditions, words with large neighborhoods were reported less accurately than words with small neighborhoods, but there was no effect of neighborhood frequency (i.e., whether the word had a higher frequency neighbor). In the low-visibility conditions, low-frequency words with large neighborhoods and low-frequency words with higher frequency neighbors showed superior identification performance. In the semantic categorization task (Experiment 3), words with large neighborhoods were responded to more rapidly than words with small neighborhoods, but there was no effect of neighborhood frequency. These results are inconsistent with two of the basic premises of the multiple read-out model - namely, that facilitatory neighborhood size effects are due to a variable response criterion (the ∑ criterion), rather than to lexical selection processes, and that the lexical selection processes themselves produce an inhibitory neighborhood frequency effect (via the M criterion). Instead, the present results, in conjunction with previous findings, suggest that large neighborhoods (and perhaps higher frequency neighbors) do aid lexical selection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas