Effects of Near and Distant Phonological Neighbors on Picture Naming


Many studies have examined the effects of co-activation of similar words (“neighbors”) during processing, with some reporting facilitative effects and others reporting inhibitory effects. Attractor dynamics has provided a promising integrated account in which distant semantic neighbors (moderately similar words) tend to facilitate processing and near semantic neighbors (highly similar words) tend to inhibit processing. This framework was extended to phonological neighbor effects on the accuracy of word production. For aphasic patients (N=62) and speeded young controls (N=32), picture naming was more accurate for words with many distant phonological neighbors (words with matching onsets) and less accurate for words with a near phonological neighbor (homophones). In addition, the sizes of the facilitative and inhibitory effects were correlated, suggesting that the mechanisms responsible for both effects are functionally integrated. These results extend an attractor dynamics framework that predicts facilitative effects of distant neighbors and inhibitory effects of near neighbors.

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