Picture-Word Interference with Masked and Visible Distractors: Different Types of Semantic Relatedness Inhibit Lexical Selection


One question in word production is how the presence of a semantically related word affects the naming process. It has been suggested that semantic effects in picture-word interference tasks are a net result of both inhibitory and facilitatory processes that take place at different processing levels. Finkbeiner and Caramazza (2006) argued that masking distractor words removes the inhibitory component, leaving only lexical facilitation. We investigated this claim by comparing different types of semantic relationship – categorical relatedness, associative relatedness, and a combination of both – in picture-word interference with masked and visible distractors. We observed inhibitory effects in all conditions. In the visible condition, semantic category coordinates exerted the strongest inhibition, while in the masked condition, associatively related distractors interfered most. These findings are not easily reconciled with previous findings on polarity shifts of semantic effects with masked distractors. We discuss how all present findings could be explained within the same framework.

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