[PS-2.36] How does context aid lexical access?

Shao, Z. 1 & Rommers, J. 2

1 Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, the Netherlands
2 Department of Psychology and The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA

Difficulties in saying the right word at the right time arise at least partly because multiple words are simultaneously activated in the speakers mind. This has been simulated using the picture-word interference task, in which speakers name pictures while ignoring superimposed written distractor words. However, words are usually produced in context to achieve a communicative goal. We embedded the picture-word interference task in a dialogue setting, where participants heard a question and named a picture as an answer to the question while ignoring a superimposed distractor word. The question was either closely or loosely semantically related to the name of the picture. Picture and word were semantically or phonologically related or unrelated. Results of two experiments showed that naming latencies were shorter when the pictures were preceded by constraining as compared to neutral contexts. This context facilitation effect interacted with the semantic effect such that the semantic interference effect was reduced in constraining compared to neutral contexts. By contrast, the context facilitation effect did not interact with the phonological facilitation effect. It suggests that the degree of contextual constraints has an impact on lexical access at the semantic retrieval stage but not at the phonological encoding stage of language production.