A Joint Investigation of Semantic Facilitation and Semantic Interference in Continuous Naming

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When speakers name multiple semantically related items, opposing effects can be found. Semantic facilitation is found when naming 2 semantically related items in a row. In contrast, semantic interference is found when speakers name semantically related items separated by 1 or more intervening unrelated items. This latter form of interference is cumulative, as it increases as a function of the number of related items that have been named beforehand. Semantic facilitation has therefore been envisaged as a product of transient and fast-decaying activation of related representations, whereas semantic interference has been linked to longer-lasting changes in the connections between semantic and lexical representations. In this work we attempted to explore and compare the 2 phenomena jointly, by means of contrasting naming sequences with noncontiguous semantically related items and sequences with contiguous semantically related items. Results provide evidence that mechanisms responsible for semantic facilitation and interference may jointly occur in parallel, producing opposing influences on behavior. Importantly, semantic facilitation may exhibit cumulative features too, though these are immediately disrupted when unrelated items intervene.

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