Reading Aloud: Does Previous Trial History Modulate the Joint Effects of Stimulus Quality and Word Frequency?

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No one would argue with the proposition that how we process events in the world is strongly affected by our experience. Nonetheless, recent experience (e.g., from the previous trial) is typically not considered in the analysis of timed cognitive performance in the laboratory. Masson and Kliegl (2013) reported that, in the context of the lexical decision task, the nature of the previous trial strongly modulates the joint effects of word frequency and stimulus quality—a joint effect that is widely reported to be additive when averaged over trial history. In particular, their analysis suggests there may be no genuine additivity of these factors. Here we extended this line of investigation by reanalyzing data reported by O’Malley and Besner (2008) in which subjects read words and nonwords aloud, with word frequency and stimulus quality as manipulated factors. These factors are additive on reaction time in the standard analysis of variance. Contrary to Masson and Kliegl’s finding for lexical decision, when previous trial history is taken into consideration, these 2 factors still do not interact. This suggests that, at least in the context of reading aloud, previous trial does not modulate how the effects of these 2 factors combine. Some implications are briefly noted.

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