Meaning is in the beholder’s eye: Morpho-semantic effects in masked priming


Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 20, 534-541


June, 2013


Marelli, M., Amenta, S., Morone, E.A., & Crepaldi, D.

A substantial body of literature indicates that, at least at some level of processing, complex words are broken down into their morphemes solely on the basis of their orthographic form (e.g., Rastle, Davis, & New, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 11:1090–1098, 2004). Recent evidence has shown that this process might not be obligatory, as indicated by the fact that morpho-orthographic effects were not found in a cross-case same–different task—that is, when lexical access was not necessarily required (Duñabeitia, Kinoshita, Carreiras, & Norris, Language and Cognitive Processes 26:509–529, 2011). In this study, we employed a task that required understanding a series of words and, thus, implied lexical access. Masked primes were shown very briefly right before the appearance of the target word; prime–target pairs entertained a morpho-semantic (dealerDEAL), a morpho-orthographic (cornerCORN), or a purely orthographic (brothelBROTH) relationship. Eye fixation times clearly indicated facilitation for transparent pairs, but not for opaque pairs (or for orthographic pairs, which were used as a baseline). Conversely, the usual morpho-orthographic pattern was found in a control experiment, employing a lexical decision task. These results indicate that the access to a morpho-orthographic level of representation is not always necessary for lexical identification, which challenges models of visual word identification that cannot account for task-induced effects.