Priming and the effects of sentence and lexical contexts on naming time: Evidence for autonomous lexical processing

K. I. Forster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

290 Scopus citations


Models of language processing which stress the autonomy of processing at each level predict that the semantic properties of an incomplete sentence context should have no influence on lexical processing, either facilitatory or inhibitory. An experiment similar to those reported by Fischler and Bloom (I979) and Stanovich and West (I979, I98I) was conducted using naming time as an index of lexical access time. No facilitatory effects of context were observed for either highly predictable or semantically appropriate (but unpredictable) completions, whereas strong inhibitory effects were obtained for inappropriate completions. When lexical decision time was the dependent measure, the same results were obtained, except that predictable completions now produced strong facilitation. In a further experiment the inhibitory effects of context on lexical decision times for inappropriate targets were maintained, even though unfocussed contexts were used, in which no clear expectancy for a particular completion was involved. These results were interpreted in terms of a two-factor theory which attributes the facilitation observed with the lexical decision task to post-access decision processes which are not involved in the naming task. The inhibitory effects were attributed to interference resulting from semantic integration. In contrast to the results for sentence contexts, lexical contexts of the doctor-nurse variety produced clear facilitation effects on naming time (but no inhibitory effects). It was also shown that relatively minor variations in the type of neutral context could completely alter the relative importance of facilitation and inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-495
Number of pages31
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


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