Is There a Neighborhood Frequency Effect in English? Evidence From Reading and Lexical Decision

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What is the effect of a word's higher frequency neighbors on its identification time? According to activation-based models of word identification (J. Grainger & A. M. Jacobs, 1996; J. L. McClelland & D. E. Rumelhart, 1981), words with higher frequency neighbors will be processed more slowly than words without higher frequency neighbors because of the lexical competition mechanism embodied in these models. Although a critical prediction of these models, this inhibitory neighborhood frequency effect has been elusive in studies that have used English stimuli. In the present experiments, the effect of higher frequency neighbors was examined in the lexical decision task and when participants were reading sentences while their eye movements were monitored. Results suggest that higher frequency neighbors have little, if any, effect on the identification of English words. The implications for activation-based models of word identification are discussed.

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