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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35932. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035932. Epub 2012 Apr 26.

Unfolding visual lexical decision in time.

Author information

1
Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, National Research Council (ISTC-CNR), Rome, Italy. laurabarcapst@gmail.com

Abstract

Visual lexical decision is a classical paradigm in psycholinguistics, and numerous studies have assessed the so-called "lexicality effect" (i.e., better performance with lexical than non-lexical stimuli). Far less is known about the dynamics of choice, because many studies measured overall reaction times, which are not informative about underlying processes. To unfold visual lexical decision in (over) time, we measured participants' hand movements toward one of two item alternatives by recording the streaming x,y coordinates of the computer mouse. Participants categorized four kinds of stimuli as "lexical" or "non-lexical:" high and low frequency words, pseudowords, and letter strings. Spatial attraction toward the opposite category was present for low frequency words and pseudowords. Increasing the ambiguity of the stimuli led to greater movement complexity and trajectory attraction to competitors, whereas no such effect was present for high frequency words and letter strings. Results fit well with dynamic models of perceptual decision-making, which describe the process as a competition between alternatives guided by the continuous accumulation of evidence. More broadly, our results point to a key role of statistical decision theory in studying linguistic processing in terms of dynamic and non-modular mechanisms.

PMID:
22563419
PMCID:
PMC3338539
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0035932
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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