Terminating and exhaustive search in lexical access

Kenneth I. Forster, Elizabeth S. Bednall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Two experiments which test predictions derived from the assumption that lexical access involves a search process are reported. In the first experiment, test items must be classified as ambiguous or unambiguous, and in the second experiment, they are classified according to their syntactic properties. In both experiments, it is shown that when the target of the search is a nonexistent entry, an exhaustive search is involved, even though the test items are words. Further, in these conditions, frequency of occurrence is no longer related to decision time, as it is in lexical decision experiments. It is concluded that the search model adequately explains the procedure whereby the most common meaning of a homograph is accessed, but that the less common meaning is accessed in some completely different manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-61
Number of pages9
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1976
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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