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Journal Article

How a question context aids word production: Evidence from the picture–word interference paradigm


Shao,  Zeshu
Psychology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
University of Aberdeen;

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Shao, Z., & Rommers, J. (2020). How a question context aids word production: Evidence from the picture–word interference paradigm. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 73(2), 165-173. doi:10.1177/1747021819882911.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-94B5-7
Difficulties in saying the right word at the right time arise at least in part because multiple response candidates are simultaneously activated in the speaker’s mind. The word selection process has been simulated using the picture–word interference task, in which participants name pictures while ignoring a superimposed written distractor word. However, words are usually produced in context, in the service of achieving a communicative goal. Two experiments addressed the questions whether context influences word production, and if so, how. We embedded the picture–word interference task in a dialogue-like setting, in which participants heard a question and named a picture as an answer to the question while ignoring a superimposed distractor word. The conversational context was either constraining or nonconstraining towards the answer. Manipulating the relationship between the picture name and the distractor, we focused on two core processes of word production: retrieval of semantic representations (Experiment 1) and phonological encoding (Experiment 2). The results of both experiments showed that naming reaction times (RTs) were shorter when preceded by constraining contexts as compared with nonconstraining contexts. Critically, constraining contexts decreased the effect of semantically related distractors but not the effect of phonologically related distractors. This suggests that conversational contexts can help speakers with aspects of the meaning of to-be-produced words, but phonological encoding processes still need to be performed as usual.