Distractor strength and selective attention in picture-naming performance


Whereas it has long been assumed that competition plays a role in lexical selection in word production (e.g., Levelt, Roelofs, & Meyer, 1999), recently Finkbeiner and Caramazza (2006) argued against the competition assumption on the basis of their observation that visible distractors yield semantic interference in picture naming, whereas masked distractors yield semantic facilitation. We examined an alternative account of these findings that preserves the competition assumption. According to this account, the interference and facilitation effects of distractor words reflect whether or not distractors are strong enough to exceed a threshold for entering the competition process. We report two experiments in which distractor strength was manipulated by means of coactivation and visibility. Naming performance was assessed in terms of mean response time (RT) and RT distributions. In Experiment 1, with low coactivation, semantic facilitation was obtained from clearly visible distractors, whereas poorly visible distractors yielded no semantic effect. In Experiment 2, with high coactivation, semantic interference was obtained from both clearly and poorly visible distractors. These findings support the competition threshold account of the polarity of semantic effects in naming.

In: Memory & Cognition, 40, 614-627

Rejection history:

Journal Outcome Reason
JEP:HPP Rejected after reviews Major concerns regarding masking procedure