Francesca Peressotti

"Priming" ortografico: un paradigma efficace per studiare i processi coinvolti nel riconoscimento visivo delle parole

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The orthographic priming effect refers to the fact that the identification of a word is made easier if an orthographically similar word is presented just before it. For example, the recognition of the target word CARTA is faster when it is preceded by the prime word SARTA. When the prime is exposed very briefly and it is immediately followed by the target, its processing is assumed to be automatic. Therefore, the priming paradigm has been largely used to investigate the nature of the mental code (s) activated during word recognition. Understanding whether the priming effect depends on the orthographic or on the phonological overlap between the prime and the target (number of common graphemes or common phonemes) has been one of the most studied issues in the literature. The results suggest that both variables play a role in the effect. Orthographic and phonological information would be automatically activated by prime processing. The first, however, would have an earlier effect on the target than the latter. A second issue considered in the present paper concerns the problem to establish at which stage of processing the orthographic priming effect occurs. Prime and target interference could start either from the very beginning of the recognition process (and involve feature extraction, letter form computation and graphemic identification), or only later at the level of lexical access. In order to isolate the interference level, two variables are considered crucial: a) the visual relationship between prime and target (physically identical letters, e.g. SARTA - CARTA; same letters only at the name level, e.g. sarta - CARTA); b) priming effects on non-words (e.g. the non-word DERTA priming the non-word MERTA). Finally, the problem of visual fusion between prime and target stimuli is considered. Fusion effects have been reported when the target follows immediately the prime and is briefly presented. Thus, in these conditions, orthographic priming effects could exclusively be due to the compatibility between prime's and target's visual features.

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