Attentional cueing effect in the identification of words and pseudowords of different length

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Three experiments studied the influence of spatial attention on familiar and unfamiliar letter string identification. Siéroff and Posner's (1988) cueing procedure was used: A cue indicated in advance either the beginning (left) or the end (right) of a foveally presented letter string that participants were instructed to read aloud. Results showed that the precue had a stronger influence on pseudoword than on word identification. Similar results were obtained when participants were instructed to report the identity of the cue or not. For pseudowords, a cueing effect was obtained regardless of length (6, 8, and 10 letters), whereas only 10-letter words showed such an effect, though to a lesser degree than pseudowords of the same length. However, results showed that shorter words were also influenced by the cue location when the exposure duration was reduced. Results are compatible with an early role of spatial attention in letter string processing, but they also suggest that the lexical status of a letter string can directly influence the distribution of attention before the identification process is completely achieved. Although orienting of spatial attention seems heavily involved in a pseudoword identification, some spatial attention mechanism could also take place in the case of familiar words. The results are discussed within two theoretical frameworks concerning the involvement of spatial attention in word identification: The "replacement" theory and the "redistribution" theory.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Université de Savoie, Chambery, France 2: Université René Descartes, Paris, France

Publication date: April 1, 2002

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