01-09-2020 | Original Article
Does a mark make a difference? Visual similarity effects with accented vowels
Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research | Uitgave 6/2021Log in om toegang te krijgen
Visual similarity effects are pervasive in masked priming (e.g., T4BLE→TABLE; obiect→OBJECT; docurnent→DOCUMENT) and can be easily explained in terms of uncertainty regarding letter identity. However, recent research failed to show visual similarity effects for primes containing accented vowels (e.g., féliz-FELIZ behaves as fáliz-FELIZ [happy in Spanish]). This null effect has been taken to suggest that accented and non-accented vowels (e.g., é and e) activate completely distinct representations. However, priming effects are reinstated for non-accented vowels (e.g., facil-FÁCIL < fecil-FÁCIL [easy in Spanish]). Here we tested the hypothesis that the lack of priming effects for primes containing accented vowels is a simple consequence of the saliency of the accent marks. To investigate this issue, we conducted a masked priming lexical decision experiment in which we minimized the saliency of the diacritical marks by using primes containing the letter i (i.e., a letter that contains itself a glyph over the letter). We manipulated prime-target visual similarity and the presence/absence of an accented vowel in the prime (e.g., obieto-OBJETO vs. obaeto-OBJETO; obíeto-OBJETO vs. obáeto-OBJETO [object in Spanish]). Results showed a sizeable visual similarity effect regardless of whether the prime was accented or not. Therefore, these findings suggest that, at least in scripts like Spanish, there is nothing special about the processing of accented vs. unaccented vowels once the saliency of the diacritical marks is reduced.