Perceptual flexibility in word recognition: Strategies affect orthographic computation but not lexical access

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Abstract

Four tachistoscopic forced-choice recognition experiments (with 153 paid volunteers) explored the flexibility of processes underlying word perception. Stimuli were words, orthographically regular but unfamiliar pseudowords, and orthographically irregular nonsense strings. In Exps I and II, Ss knew that several kinds of stimuli would occur in each block of trials and that one kind would occur more often than the others. No matter which stimulus Ss expected to see most often, accuracy on words and pseudowords differed little, and both were identified better than nonsense. In Exps III and IV, Ss were led to believe that only one stimulus type would occur but were surreptitiously shown another type on a small number of trials. Words were again identified more accurately than nonsense, and the size of the effect was independent of expectations. However, when either words or nonsense strings were expected exclusively, pseudoword accuracy did not differ from nonsense accuracy. Only when Ss knew that pseudowords would occur did they identify pseudowords more accurately than nonsense. This dissociation between word and pseudoword identification indicates the operation of 2 independent encoding mechanisms during tachistoscopic recognition, a stimulus-specific system sensitive to particular familiar strings and an orthographic mechanism sensitive to generally applicable constraints on letter sequencing. (33 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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