Neighborhood in Decay: Working Memory Modulates Effect of Phonological Similarity on Lexical Access

AbstractA mainstay of models that account for the access of lexical knowledge is that auditory words compete for selection based on form similarity, commonly seen in an inhibitory effect to greater phonological neighborhood density (PND). PND is a metric that states that two words are neighbors if they differ by the addition, deletion or substitution of a single phoneme. A drawback to this account is that there is competing evidence even among the European languages investigated thus far. We sought to verify whether the inhibitory effect of greater PND would hold for Mandarin Chinese in two auditory word repetition tasks with monosyllabic and disyllabic Mandarin words. Results of Experiment 1 showed a facilitative effect to greater PND. Experiment 2 added a non-verbal distractor task to lessen the putative effect of working memory load during the task. The facilitative effect to greater PND was confirmed along with a significant post-hoc interaction with memory decay, operationalized as the duration spent on the distractor tasks. The facilitative effects extend previous reports of differential behavior due to linguistic typology.


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