Lexical and Sentence Context Effects in Word Recognition

Greg B. Simpson, Robert R. Peterson, Mark A. Casteel, Curt Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Three experiments examined lexical and sentence-level contributions to contextual facilitation effects in word recognition. Subjects named target words preceded by normal or scrambled sentence contexts that contained lexical associates of the target. In Experiment 1, normal sentences showed facilitation for related targets and inhibition for unrelated targets. Experiment 2 eliminated syntactically anomalous targets among unrelated items and showed only facilitation for related targets. In neither experiment was there any effect of relatedness for scrambled stimuli. Experiment 3 included syntactically normal but semantically anomalous sentences to test whether the failure of scrambled sentences to show priming was due to their syntactic incoherence. Normal sentences again showed contextual facilitation, but neither scrambled nor anomalous sentences showed such effects. The results indicate that there are sentence-context effects that do not arise solely from intralexical spreading activation and suggest that context facilitates the identification of a lexical candidate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-97
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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