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17-10-2019 | Original Article

Multiple routes to word recognition: evidence from event-related potentials

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research
Auteurs:
Mei-Ching Lien, Philip A. Allen, Eric Ruthruff
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Abstract

We used event-related potentials to determine whether lexical access during semantic processing is achieved solely by the letter-based route, or by both a letter-based and word-based route. Participants determined whether words were related or unrelated to a prespecified category. To disrupt the word-based route (i.e., disrupt the processing of overall word shape), we manipulated case type. We measured the N170, assumed to be an index of holistic processing, and the N400, an index of semantic activation. Surprisingly, mixed-case words elicited a larger N170 effect than either consistent lowercase words (Experiment 1) or consistent uppercase words (Experiment 2). The N400, meanwhile, was unaffected by case mixing. In contrast, LEET words (e.g., T4BL3 instead of TABLE), which preserve overall word shape but distort letter shape, increased the N400 but did not reduce the N170 (Experiment 3). The results indicate that the N170 is in fact not a reliable index of holistic word processing. Implications for word recognition models are discussed.

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