When Words Collide: Orthographic and Phonological Interference During Word Processing

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The interaction between orthographic and phonological information was studied in two experiments by requiring subjects to match visually presented word pairs on the basis of their visual or rhyming similarity. Word pairs either rhymed and looked alike, rhymed but did not look alike, looked alike but did not rhyme, or did not rhyme and did not look alike. In Experiment 1 under rhyme matching, reaction time (RT) was markedly increased whenever there was a conflict between orthographic and phonological cues. Under visual matching, overall RT was shorter than rhyme matching, with visually similar rhyming and non-rhyming pairs producing equally rapid and short responses compared to the non-rhyming but visually different word pairs. Most subjects also responded slower to rhyming and visually different stimuli compared to word pairs that did no look alike or rhyme. Experiment 2 sought to specify the processing locus of these effects by recording event-related brain potentials (ERPs) under task conditions similar to the first experiment. The RT data essentially replicated the effects found in Experiment 1 for both matching tasks. The ERP data viewed in the context of these results suggested that the interaction of the orthographic and phonological codes begins at least at the stimulus comparison processing stage, but that the conflict may also contribute to delays in response selection. The results are discussed in terms of several current models of word processing.

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Biological Psychology, v. 16, issues 3-4, p. 155-180