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Poster B46, Wednesday, November 8, 3:00 – 4:15 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Letters to the left of me, letters to the right: Examining parafoveal flanker effects during word recognition

Trevor Brothers1, Matthew J. Traxler1, Tamara Y. Swaab1;1University of California, Davis

During reading, the presence of nearby letter strings can influence word identification, even when these flanking letters are task irrelevant. Our goal in the present experiments was to explore the mechanisms of this parafoveal flanker effect and to investigate the temporal relationship between orthographic processing and semantic activation. In Experiment 1, words surrounded by congruent flankers (RA RAGE GE) were recognized faster than those with incongruent flankers (TH RAGE IN), replicating previous results. Critically, priming was identical for visually dissimilar letters of a different case (ra RAGE ge), suggesting that flanker priming occurs at the level of abstract orthographic units. In Experiment 2, we showed that flankers derived from semantically related words (LE BORROW ND) also produce faster lexical decisions. Finally, in an experiment using event-related potentials, incongruent flankers produced larger N400 amplitudes and caused a delay in the onset of the N400 semantic priming effect. Together, these findings suggest that irrelevant parafoveal letter strings can be processed at both the orthographic and semantic level and that early orthographic interference can delay semantic activation. We discuss implications of these findings for models of word recognition as well as recent computational models of the N400.

Topic Area: Perception: Orthographic and Other Visual Processes

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