Orthographic Neighborhood Effects in Recognition and Recall Tasks in a Transparent Orthography

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The number of orthographic neighbors of a word influences its probability of being retrieved in recognition and free recall memory tests. Even though this phenomenon is well demonstrated for English words, it has yet to be demonstrated for languages with more predictable grapheme–phoneme mappings than English. To address this issue, 4 experiments were conducted to investigate effects of number of orthographic neighbors (N) and effects of frequency of occurrence of orthographic neighbors (NF) on memory retrieval of Brazilian Portuguese words. One hundred twenty-four Brazilian Portuguese speakers performed first a lexical-decision task (LDT) on words that were factorially manipulated according to N and NF, and intermixed with either nonpronounceable nonwords without orthographic neighbors (Experiments 1A and 2A), or with pronounceable nonwords with a large number of orthographic neighbors (Experiments 1B and 2B). The words were later used as probes on either recognition (Experiments 1A and 1B) or recall tests (Experiments 2A and 2B). Words with 1 orthographic neighbor were consistently better remembered than words with several orthographic neighbors in all recognition and recall tests. Notably, whereas in Experiment 1A higher false alarm rates were yielded for words with several rather than 1 orthographic neighbor, in Experiment 1B higher false alarm rates were yielded for words with 1 rather than several orthographic neighbors. Effects of NF, on the other hand, were not consistent among memory tasks. The effects of N on the recognition and recall tests conducted here are interpreted in light of dual process models of recognition.

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