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Lang Cogn Process. 2014 Jan 1;29(3):326-344.

The Aging Neighborhood: Phonological Density in Naming.

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1
Communication Sciences & Disorders, University of Iowa, 305 WJSHC, Iowa City, IA 52242-1012, , FAX: (319) 332-8851 ; Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of Iowa, 2100 RCP, Iowa City, IA 52242-1101 ; DeLTA Center, University of Iowa.
2
Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of Iowa, 2100 RCP, Iowa City, IA 52242-1101.

Abstract

Aging affects the ability to retrieve words for production, despite maintainence of lexical knowledge. In this study, we investigate the influence of lexical variables on picture naming accuracy and latency in adults ranging in age from 22 to 86 years. In particular, we explored the influence of phonological neighborhood density, which has been shown to exert competitive effects on word recognition, but to facilitate word production, a finding with implications for models of the lexicon. Naming responses were slower and less accurate for older participants, as expected. Target frequency also played a strong role, with facilitative frequency effects becoming stronger with age. Neighborhood density interacted with age, such that naming was slower for high-density than low-density items, but only for older subjects. Explaining this finding within an interactive activation model suggests that, as we age, the ability of activated neighbors to facilitate target production diminishes, while their activation puts them in competition with the target.

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