Phonological Priming in Auditory Word Recognition

Louisa M. Slowiaczek, Howard C. Nusbaum, David B. Pisoni

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83 Scopus citations


Cohort theory, developed by Marslen-Wilson and Welsh (1978), proposes that a "cohort" of all the words beginning with a particular sound sequence will be activated during the initial stage of the word recognition process. We used a priming technique to test specific predictions regarding cohort activation in three experiments. In each experiment, subjects identified target words embedded in noise at different signal-to-noise ratios. The target words were either presented in isolation or preceded by a prime item that shared phonological information with the target. In Experiment 1, primes and targets were English words that shared zero, one, two, three, or all phonemes from the beginning of the word. In Experiment 2, nonword primes preceded word targets and shared initial phonemes. In Experiment 3, word primes and word targets shared phonemes from the end of a word. Evidence of reliable phonological priming was observed in all three experiments. The results of the first two experiments support the assumption of activation of lexical candidates based on word-initial information, as proposed in cohort theory. However, the results of the third experiment, which showed increased probability of correctly identifying targets that shared phonemes from the end of words, did not support the predictions derived from the theory. The findings are discussed in terms of current models of auditory word recognition and recent approaches to spoken-language understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-75
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

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