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Contextual diversity, not word frequency, determines word-naming and lexical decision times

By James S. Adelman, G. D. A. (Gordon D. A.) Brown and José F Quesada


Word frequency is an important predictor of word-naming and lexical decision times. It is, however, confounded with contextual diversity, the number of contexts in which a word has been seen. In a study using a normative, corpus-based measure of contextual diversity, word-frequency effects were eliminated when effects of contextual diversity were taken into account (but not vice versa) across three naming and three lexical decision data sets; the same pattern of results was obtained regardless of which of three corpora was used to derive the frequency and contextual-diversity values. The results are incompatible with existing models of visual word recognition, which attribute frequency effects directly to frequency, and are particularly problematic for accounts in which frequency effects reflect learning. We argue that the results reflect the importance of likely need in memory processes, and that the continuity between reading and memory suggests using principles from memory research to inform theories of reading. \u

Topics: BF
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
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