Must analysis of meaning follow analysis of form? A time course analysis

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 9:119627 (2015)
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Abstract

Many models of word recognition assume that processing proceeds sequentially from analysis of form to analysis of meaning. In the context of morphological processing, this implies that morphemes are processed as units of form prior to any influence of their meanings. Some interpret the apparent absence of differences in recognition latencies to targets (SNEAK) in form and semantically similar (sneaky-SNEAK) and in form similar and semantically dissimilar (sneaker-SNEAK) prime contexts at an SOA of 48 ms as consistent with this claim. To determine the time course over which degree of semantic similarity between morphologically structured primes and their targets influences recognition in the forward masked priming variant of the lexical decision paradigm, we compared facilitation for the same targets after semantically similar and dissimilar primes across a range of SOAs. The effect of shared semantics on recognition latency increased linearly with SOA when long SOAs were intermixed (Exp. 1) and latencies were significantly faster after semantically similar than dissimilar primes at homogeneous SOAs of 48 ms (Exp. 2) and 34 ms (Exp. 3). Results limit the scope of form-then-semantics models of recognition and demonstrate that semantics influences even the very early stages of recognition. Finally, once general behavior across trials has been accounted for, we fail to provide evidence for individual differences in morphological processing that can be linked to measures of reading proficiency.

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Patrick O'Connor
Nottingham Trent University