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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1989 Sep;15(5):791-801.

Semantic facilitation of lexical access during sentence processing.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Amherst College, Massachusetts 01002.


In three experiments we investigated the effect of a sentence context on naming time for a target word. Contexts were presented by using a rapid serial visual presentation; subjects named the last word of the sentence. In the first two experiments, facilitation was observed for a fully congruent context containing a subject and verb that were weakly related to the target word. No facilitation was observed when either the subject or verb was replaced with a more neutral word. In the third experiment, the fully congruent contexts were modified either to preserve or to disrupt the original relation between the subject and verb. Facilitation was observed in both conditions. The full pattern of results suggests that a combination of lexical items can prime a target word in the absence of priming by any of the lexical items individually. This combination priming is not dependent upon the overall meaning of the sentence.

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