Semantic interference in picture naming during dual-task performance does not vary with reading ability


Previous dual-task studies examining the locus of semantic interference of distractor words in picture naming have obtained diverging results. In these studies, participants manually responded to tones and named pictures while ignoring distractor words (picture-word interference, PWI) with varying stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between tone and PWI stimulus. Whereas some studies observed no semantic interference at short SOAs, other studies observed effects of similar magnitude at short and long SOAs. The absence of semantic interference in some studies may perhaps be due to better reading skill of participants in these compared to the other studies. According to such a reading-ability account, participants’ reading skill should be predictive of the magnitude of their interference effect at short SOAs. To test this account, we conducted a dual-task study with tone discrimination and PWI tasks, and measured participants’ reading ability. The semantic interference effect was of similar magnitude at both short and long SOAs. Participants’ reading ability was predictive of their naming speed but not of their semantic interference effect, contrary to the reading ability account. We conclude that the magnitude of semantic interference in picture naming during dual-task performance does not depend on reading skill.

In: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68 (9), 1758-1768