Associative facilitation in the Stroop task: Comment on Mahon et al. (2012)


A fundamental issue in psycholinguistics concerns how speakers retrieve intended words from long-term memory. According to a selection-by-competition account (e.g., Levelt, Roelofs, and Meyer, 1999), conceptually driven word retrieval involves the activation of a set of candidate words and a competitive selection of the intended word from this set. Selection by competition explains, for example, the Stroop interference effect (e.g., Roelofs, 2003). Speakers are slower to name the ink color of an incongruent color-word combination (e.g., the word green in red ink, say “red”) than of a series of Xs. Although competition is widely regarded in the cognitive neurosciences as a ubiquitous mechanism, its role in lexical selection has been disputed by proponents of a response-exclusion account. This account holds that words are selected upon exceeding an activation threshold, regardless of the levels of activation of other words, and that Stroop interference arises later in an articulatory buffer (e.g., Finkbeiner and Caramazza, 2006). Whereas the lexical competition and response-exclusion accounts both explain the Stroop interference effect, Mahon, Garcea, and Navarrete (2012) recently argued that associative facilitation from color-related words in the Stroop task (e.g., naming the ink color red is faster with fire than with lawn as the word stimulus) supports the response exclusion account and challenges the competition account.

In: Cortex, 49 (6), 1767-1769