Contextual facilitation in a letter search task depends on how the prime is processed

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Three experiments investigated whether contextual facilitation occurs automatically upon prime presentation or whether facilitation depends on the manner of processing the prime. Exp I (18 university students) demonstrated that a letter search in a target word was facilitated when the target was preceded by either an identical or a semantically associated word. If, however, a letter search was required in the prime as well as in the target (Exp II, 16 Ss), the relative advantage enjoyed by targets preceded by identical-word primes disappeared. Exp III (24 Ss) replicated this loss of facilitation using semantically associated word pairs. Contextual facilitation thus appears to depend upon the mode of analysis of the prime. If the prime is analyzed as a meaningful unit, facilitation occurs. If, however, it is subjected to a more discrete, letter-by-letter analysis, the priming effect vanishes. (25 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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