Consistency measures individuate dissociating semantic activation networks in priming paradigms: A new look on semantics in the processing of (complex) words


Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (2018)


June, 2018


Amenta, S., Crepaldi, D., and Marelli, M.

Human language is an arbitrary system, since there is no direct connection between words and the objects that they represent. However, within a given language, it is possible to recognize systematic associations that support productivity and comprehension. In this work, we focus on the consistency between orthographic forms and meaning, and we investigate how the cognitive system may exploit it to process words. We take morphology as our case study, since it arguably represents one of the most notable examples of systematicity in form-meaning mapping. In a series of three experiments, we investigate the impact of form-meaning mapping in word processing by testing new consistency metrics as predictors of priming magnitude in primed lexical decision. In Experiment 1, we re-analyse data from five masked morphological priming studies and show that OSC explains independent variance in priming magnitude, suggesting that word semantics is accessed already at early stages of word processing and that crucially semantic access is constrained by word orthography. In Experiment 2 and 3, we investigate whether this pattern is replicated when looking at semantic priming. In Experiment 2, we show that the measure of form-meaning consistency is not a viable predictor of priming magnitude in long-term conditions. However, in Experiment 3, we develop a new semantic consistency measure based on the semantic density of target neighbourhoods. This measure is shown to significantly predict independent variance in semantic priming effect. Overall our results indicate that consistency measures provide crucial information for the understanding of word processing. Specifically, the dissociation between measures and priming paradigms shows that different priming conditions are associated with the activation of different semantic cohorts.