Masked Priming With Orthographic Neighbors: A Test of the Lexical Competition Assumption

Mariko Nakayama, Christopher R. Sears, Stephen J. Lupker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


In models of visual word identification that incorporate inhibitory competition among activated lexical units, a word's higher frequency neighbors will be the word's strongest competitors. Preactivation of these neighbors by a prime is predicted to delay the word's identification. Using the masked priming paradigm (K. I. Forster & C. Davis, 1984, J. Segui and J. Grainger (1990) reported that, consistent with this prediction, a higher frequency neighbor prime delayed the responses to a lower frequency target, whereas a lower frequency neighbor prime did not delay the responses to a higher frequency target. In the present experiments, using English stimuli, it was found that this pattern held only when the primes and targets had few neighbors; when the primes and targets had many neighbors, lower frequency primes delayed responses to higher frequency targets essentially as much as higher frequency primes delayed responses to lower frequency targets. Several possible explanations for these findings are discussed along with their theoretical implications. Considered together, the results are most consistent with activation-based accounts of the masked priming effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1236-1260
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Oct


  • inhibitory priming
  • masked priming
  • neighborhood frequency
  • orthographic neighbors


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