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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1989 Jan;15(1):73-87.

The dependence of lexical relatedness effects on syntactic connectedness.

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  • Department of Psychology, University of Rochester, New York 14627.


Context effects on lexical decision were analyzed by manipulating lexical relatedness and syntactic connectedness. Related and unrelated word pairs were embedded in syntactic (e.g., "the author of this book/floor") and in scrambled (e.g., "the author the and book/floor") phrases. The sequences were presented serially and subjects made lexical decisions to the terminal targets. In four experiments, relatedness effects were substantial in syntactic phrases but only marginal in scrambled sequences. This result was unaffected by presentation rate or by blocking manipulations. A fifth experiment showed that the relatedness effect in syntactic phrases involved both facilitation of responses to related words and inhibition of responses to unrelated words. These results argue against a role for intralexical priming in on-line reading. They highlight the role of syntactic connectedness and suggest that contextual facilitation depends on the ease of integration of new words with the current text-level representation.

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