Previous studies (e.g., Pecher, Zeelenberg, & Wagenmakers, 2005) found that semantic classification performance is better for target words with orthographic neighbors that are mostly from the same semantic class (e.g., living) compared to target words with orthographic neighbors that are mostly from the opposite semantic class (e.g., nonliving). In the present study we investigated the contribution of phonology to orthographic neighborhood effects by comparing effects of phonologically congruent orthographic neighbors (book-hook) to phonologically incongruent orthographic neighbors (sand-wand). The prior presentation of a semantically congruent word produced larger effects on subsequent animacy decisions when the previously presented word was a phonologically congruent neighbor than when it was a phonologically incongruent neighbor. In a second experiment, performance differences between target words with versus without semantically congruent orthographic neighbors were larger if the orthographic neighbors were also phonologically congruent. These results support models of visual word recognition that assume an important role for phonology in cascaded access to meaning.

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Experimental Psychology
Department of Psychology

Pecher, D., Boot, I., van Dantzig, S., Madden, C., Huber, D., & Zeelenberg, R. (2011). The sound of enemies and friends in the neighborhood: Phonology mediates activation of neighbor semantics. Experimental Psychology, 58(6), 454–463. doi:10.1027/1618-3169/a000113