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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2009 Apr;35(2):588-94. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.35.2.588.

Trajectories emerging from discrete versus continuous processing models in phonological competitor tasks: a commentary on Spivey, Grosjean, and Knoblich (2005).

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Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


M. J. Spivey, M. Grosjean, and G. Knoblich showed that in a phonological competitor task, participants' mouse cursor movements showed more curvature toward the competitor item when the competitor and target were phonologically similar than when the competitor and target were phonologically dissimilar. Spivey et al. interpreted this result as evidence for continuous cascading of information during the processing of spoken words. Here we show that the results of Spivey et al.need not be ascribed to continuous speech processing. Instead, their results can be ascribed to discrete processing of speech, provided one appeals to an already supported model of motor control that asserts that switching movements from 1 target to another relies on superposition of the 2nd movement onto the 1st. The latter process is a continuous cascade, a fact that indirectly strengthens the plausibility of continuous cascade models. However, the fact that we can simulate the results of Spivey et al.with a continuous motor output model and a discrete perceptual model shows that the implications of Spivey et al.'s experiment are less clear than these authors supposed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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