Title: Using the letter decision task to examine semantic priming
Authors: Heyman, Tom ×
De Deyne, Simon
Storms, Gerrit #
Issue Date: 2013
Conference: Psycholinguistics in Flanders Workshop edition:12 location:Leuven, Belgium date:30-31 May 2013
Abstract: Semantic priming is the finding that the processing of targets (e.g., a picture, a word,…) preceded by a semantically related prime (also a picture, a word,…) is enhanced. For instance, the presentation of the word cat facilitates processing of the subsequently presented word dog. The most frequently used paradigm to examine priming is the lexical decision task, in which participants have to decide whether letter strings form existing words or not. Here a different methodology is proposed. In the letter decision task, as we will call it, participants are asked to complete words, from which one letter was omitted like lett_ce (lettuce), as fast as possible. This task holds some advantages over the traditionally used lexical decision task in that it eliminates retrospective semantic matching effects, it dismisses the experimenter from the need to construct pseudowords, it is more engaging for participants and it enhances semantic processing.
In two studies we found that words are completed faster when the preceding trial comprised a semantically related fragment like tom_to (tomato) than when it comprised an unrelated fragment like guit_r (guitar). In the first study, related prime-target pairs were category coordinates and the omitted letter was always a vowel (i.e., a five-alternative forced-choice task). To make the task more comparable to the lexical decision task, we conducted a second experiment in which the missing letter was either an a or an e (i.e., a two-alternative forced-choice task). In addition, we wanted to generalize to other types of prime-target associations, so besides category coordinates (e.g., oyster-mussel) we also included supraordinates (e.g., beetle-insect), property relations (e.g., magpie-black), script relations (e.g., napkin-table) and synonyms (e.g., neat-clean). Both studies show that the letter decision task can capture semantic priming effects. The priming effect, calculated as the mean response time in the unrelated condition minus the mean response time in the related condition, was 44 ms in Experiment 1 and 33 ms in Experiment 2. Given these findings and the advantages of the task, it may prove a viable alternative to examine semantic priming.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Laboratory for Experimental Psychology
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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