Masked primes activate feature representations in reading aloud

Petroula Mousikou, Kevin Roon, Kathy Rastle

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Theories of reading aloud are silent about the role of subphonemic/subsegmental representations in translating print to sound. However, there is empirical evidence suggesting that feature representations are activated in speech production and visual word recognition. In the present study, we sought to determine whether masked primes activate feature representations in reading aloud using a variation of the masked onset priming effect (MOPE). We found that target nonwords (e.g., BAF) were read aloud faster when preceded by masked nonword primes that shared their initial phoneme with the target (e.g., bez), or primes whose initial phoneme shared all features except voicing with the first phoneme of the target (e.g., piz), compared with unrelated primes (e.g., suz). We obtained the same result in 2 experiments that used different participants and prime durations (around 60 ms in Experiment 1 and 50 ms in Experiment 2). The significant masked feature priming effect that was observed in both experiments converges with the empirical evidence in the speech production and visual word recognition domains indicating a functional role for features in reading aloud. Our findings motivate the further development of current theories of reading aloud and have important implications for extant theories of speech production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636–649
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number3
Early online date22 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

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