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Poster A36, Thursday, August 16, 10:15 am – 12:00 pm, Room 2000AB

Pictures produce orthographic neighborhood effects, but only following familiarization

Gabriela Meade1,2, Phillip J. Holcomb1;1San Diego State University, 2University of California, San Diego

Words with many orthographic neighbors (e.g., cake) resemble many other words in the language (e.g., rake, lake, care). Previous studies have shown that words with many neighbors elicit larger amplitude N400s (i.e., more lexicosemantic processing) than words with fewer neighbors, indicating that neighbors are co-activated during word processing. Here, we asked whether the same effect holds with picture stimuli that have labels with many or few orthographic neighbors. In Experiment 1, participants were familiarized with the pictures and their names two days before the ERP session. During the ERP session, they saw the pictures and engaged in a go/no-go semantic categorization task. Experiment 2 was identical except that there was no familiarization before the ERP session. In Experiment 1, we found an effect of orthographic neighborhood, such that pictures with more orthographic neighbors elicited larger amplitude negativities within the N400 window than those with fewer orthographic neighbors. However, we did not observe this effect in Experiment 2. These results suggest that the orthographic neighbors of picture names can be co-activated, but only under certain circumstances. More specifically, we propose that participants in Experiment 1 were covertly naming the pictures and that this gave rise to activation of the lexical representation of the picture name and its neighbors. Finally, the finding that neighborhood effects change with familiarization, a common practice in word production studies, has important methodological implications.

Topic Area: Meaning: Lexical Semantics