Interaction of Stimulus and Contextual Information During Reading: Identifying Words Within Sentences

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Word Identification, Sentence Context, Word Level, Sentence Level, Sentence Condition

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In general, studies on the effects of a sentence context on word identification have focused on how context affects the efficiency of processing a single target word, presented separately from the context. Such studies probably would be incapable of measuring contextual facilitation resulting from cascaded or parallel processing of neighboring words within a sentence. To measure these and other types of facilitation, we presented entire phrases and sentences for subjects to read as fast as possible and to monitor for nonwords. Subjects read at rates representative of natural reading. Experiment 1 demonstrated a large contextual facilitation effect on decision time. Experiment 2 showed that facilitation is caused by specific semantic information and, perhaps to a greater degree, by nonpredictive syntactic information. Experiment 3 showed that the amount of facilitation is greater than could be accounted for by separate contributions from autonomous word level and sentence level processes. These results present difficulties for an autonomous model of reading, but are consistent with interactive models, in which the results of ongoing sentential analyses are combined with stimulus information to identify words.

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Memory & Cognition, v. 13, issue 2, p. 145-157