Repetition priming and frequency attenuation in lexical access

Kenneth I. Forster, Chris Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1069 Scopus citations


Six experiments investigated repetition priming and frequency attenuation in lexical access with 164 college students. Repetition priming effects in lexical decision tasks are stronger for low-frequency words than for high-frequency words. This frequency attenuation effect creates problems for frequency-ordered search models that assume a relatively stable frequency effect. It was posited that frequency attenuation is a product of the involvement of the episodic memory system in the lexical decision process. This hypothesis was supported by the demonstration of constant repetition effects for high- and low-frequency words when the priming stimulus was masked; the masking was assumed to minimize the influence of any possible episodic trace of the prime. It was further shown that long-term repetition effects were much less reliable when the S was not required to make a lexical decision response to the prime. When a response was required, the expected frequency attenuation effect was restored. It is concluded that normal repetition effects consist of 2 components: a very brief lexical effect that is independent of frequency and a long-term episodic effect that is sensitive to frequency. (32 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)680-698
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1984
Externally publishedYes


  • repetition of priming stimulus &
  • word frequency attenuation, lexical decision tasks performance, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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