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Scaltritti, Michele (2013) Retrospective Prime Reliance: A Flexible Retrospective Mechanism for Semantic Priming in Visual Word Recognition. [Tesi di dottorato]

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Abstract (inglese)

Recent evidences (Balota et al., 2008; Thomas et al., 2012) suggest that the cognitive system can retrospectively (i.e., after target presentation) increase its reliance on prime information when target-word recognition is made more difficult by experimental manipulations such as visual degradation. In fact, response time (RT) distributional analyses have shown that for clearly visible target-words the priming effect has the same size in all the portions of the RT distribution. In contrast, for degraded target-words, priming effects increase across the RT distribution, coherently with the idea of an increased reliance on prime information for degraded targets, which would be particularly beneficial for the most difficult responses (i.e., the slowest ones).
The first study (with English-speaking participants), investigated the idea of retrospective prime reliance in the context of an important empirical conundrum within the word recognition literature, produced by the joint effects of stimulus visual quality (SQ), semantic priming and word frequency. The manipulation of these variables, in fact, has traditionally produced constraining results for models of priming (e.g., McNamara, 2005), as well as for visual word recognition models (e.g., Reynolds & Besner, 2004). In Experiment 1, all the three variables have been manipulated within a single speeded pronunciation task, where words and nonwords were randomly appearing as targets. The results indicated that the joint effect of SQ and word frequency on RTs were dependent upon prime relatedness. More specifically, additive effects of SQ and frequency were observed after related primes, while an overadditive interaction was observed after unrelated primes. Distributional analyses showed that this three-way interaction was mediated by slowest RTs and it was hypothesized that the pattern of effects reflects reliance on prime information. To test this hypothesis, in Experiment 2 related primes were eliminated from the list, to produce a context in which there was no reason to rely on prime information. Interactive effects of SQ and frequency found following unrelated primes in Experiment 1 reverted, in Experiment 2, to additive effects for the same unrelated prime conditions. Note that, in English, additive effects of SQ and frequency are found in standard speeded pronunciation tasks (i.e., with no primes), provided that words and nonwords are randomly intermixed in the target set (as was the case in Experiment 2).
In a second study, the same experiments as in the first one were tested within a different priming paradigm, namely in zero-lag repetition priming (e.g., Ferguson et al., 2009) and within a different language (Italian). Although distributional analyses provided preliminary evidences that retrospective prime reliance is operative even in this context (Experiment 3), cross-linguistic differences were nonetheless observed. More specifically, in English SQ and frequency produce additive effects in a speeded pronunciation task, provided that nonword targets are intermixed with real words (O’Malley & Besner, 2008) and provided that primes (if present) are all unrelated (Experiment 2). This finding does not seem to be replicated in Italian, where the two variables still produced, in Experiment 4, an overadditive interaction despite the presence of nonwords in the target-set and despite the fact that only unrelated primes were presented (exactly as in Experiment 2). It was hypothesized the discrepancy might stem from the fact that, while in English the system needs to place a functional threshold at an earlier processing level in order to overcome the detrimental effect of visual degradation before lexical representations get activated (thus avoiding lexicalization errors), in a transparent language this might not be the case. It was thus argued that in Italian it is sufficient to increase the reliance on sublexical output, without qualitatively altering the activation-dynamics of the system.
The third study explored the possibility that retrospective prime reliance entails episodic retrieval. In a first experiment, English-speaking participants first performed a lexical decision task where SQ and semantic priming were manipulated. After completing the lexical decision and a brief distracter-task, they also performed a recognition memory task on primes presented during the lexical decision. Results showed a trend towards better recognition of those primes that preceded degraded targets, as opposed to clearly visible ones. The result is coherent with the hypothesis that, for those primes that preceded degraded targets, episodic retrieval takes place even in lexical decision, thereby facilitating the recognition of these items in a subsequent memory task. In a second experiment (Italian participants), the effect of SQ in the memory task was not replicated, probably due to specific features of the materials used in the experiment. On the other hand, a strong lexicality effect was found in the memory performance: primes that preceded real words were recognized much better compared to those that preceded nonwords in the previous experimental phase. These results suggest that the interplay between primes and targets, and the cognitive operations required to process them in lexical decision may reflect into the memory traces left by these stimuli.
In conclusion, retrospective prime reliance proved to be a useful theoretical tool to understand the joint effect of semantic priming, SQ, and frequency, thereby proposing a new perspective on this issue. Moreover, preliminary evidences suggest that a retrospective component might be involved even in a zero-lag repetition priming paradigm and that the mechanism beside retrospective reliance might entail the episodic retrieval of the prime’s representation. Most importantly, the results highlight the flexibility and the sensitivity of the reading system to the context (i.e., experimental task, characteristics of the stimuli).

Abstract (italiano)

Evidenze recenti (Balota et al., 2008; Thomas et al., 2012) suggeriscono che, qualora il riconoscimento delle parole-target sia reso più difficile da manipolazioni sperimentali quali la degradazione visiva, il sistema cognitivo possa incrementare in modo retrospettivo (i.e., dopo la presentazione della parole target) la misura in cui utilizza le informazioni convogliate dal prime semantico. Infatti, analisi della distribuzione dei tempi di reazione (TR) hanno mostrato che, per parole-target chiaramente visibili, l’effetto di priming semantico ha la stessa dimensione in tutte le porzioni della distribuzione dei TR. Diversamente, per parole-target visivamente degradate, l’effetto di priming semantico aumenta drasticamente nei TR più lenti, in accordo con l’ipotesi che il sistema si affidi in misura maggiore all’informazione convogliata dal prime per i targets visivamente degradati e che ciò sia di particolare beneficio per le risposte più difficili (i.e., le più lente).
Nel primo studio (condotto con partecipanti di madrelingua Inglese), l’idea di un meccanismo retrospettivo e compensativo all’interno dell’effetto di priming semantico è stata indagata nel contesto degli effetti congiunti di qualità visiva (QV) dei target, frequenza di parole e priming semantico. In letteratura, la manipolazione di queste variabili ha prodotto, infatti, risultati molto rilevanti per i modelli di priming (e.g., McNamara, 2005) e per i modelli di riconoscimento visivo di parole singole (e.g., Reynolds & Besner, 2004). Nell’Esperimento 1, tutte e tre le variabili sono state congiuntamente manipolate all’interno di un singolo compito di lettura ad alta voce, in cui parole e non-parole comparivano in alternanza casuale come targets. I risultati hanno mostrato come gli effetti congiunti di QV e frequenza dipendano dalla relazione semantica tra prime e target. In particolare, le due variabili producono effetti additivi nel caso in cui prime e target siano semanticamente relati, mentre producono un’interazione sovradditiva nel caso in cui prime e target non siano relati. Analizzando la distribuzione dei TR, si è costatato che l’interazione a tre vie precedentemente descritta è mediata, principalmente, dai TR più lenti ed è stato conseguentemente ipotizzato che gli effetti riflettano un incremento retrospettivo della misura in cui il sistema si affida alle informazioni convogliate dal prime. Per testare l’ipotesi, nell’Esperimento 2 i prime semanticamente relati sono stati rimossi, al fine di creare un contesto in cui il sistema non avesse alcuna ragione per affidarsi all’informazione convogliata dal prime. I medesimi stimoli (coppie di prime - target non relati) che nell’Esperimento 1 avevano prodotto un’interazione, hanno prodotto effetti additivi nell’Esperimento 2. Si noti che, in Inglese, si riscontrano effetti additivi di QV e frequenza in compiti di lettura standard (senza primes), nel momento in cui parole e non parole appaiano in alternanza casuale come targets (come avveniva nell’Esperimento 2).
In un secondo studio, i due esperimenti precedentemente descritti sono stati replicati utilizzando un paradigma sperimentale diverso, ovvero quello di priming di ripetizione (e.g., Ferguson et al., 2009), con partecipanti di madrelingua Italiana. Nonostante le analisi della distribuzione suggeriscano la presenza di una componente retrospettiva anche in questo secondo contesto (Esperimento 3), i risultati hanno mostrato anche importanti differenze. In Inglese QV e frequenza producono effetti additivi in compiti di lettura nei casi in cui sia parole che non-parole siano presentate come targets (O’Malley & Besner, 2008) e i primes (se presenti) siano tutti non relati (Esperimento 2). In Italiano le due variabili producono effetti sovradditivi (Esperimento 4) nonostante la contemporanea presenza di parole e non parole e nonostante il fatto che i targets fossero preceduti unicamente da primes non relati (esattamente come nell’Esperimento 2). E’ stato ipotizzato che la discrepanza nei risultati sia dovuta alle differenze cross-linguistiche (Inglese vs. Italiano). In Inglese il sistema presenta la necessità di variare la propria architettura funzionale assumendo un funzionamento seriale che confini l’effetto di degradazione visiva negli stadi precoci dell’elaborazione, al fine di evitare che l’attivazione di rappresentazioni lessicali produca errori di lessicalizzazione. In Italiano (un linguaggio trasparente) la situazione potrebbe essere differente. In questo contesto potrebbe essere sufficiente affidarsi in misura maggiore all’output della via sub-lessicale, senza una modificazione qualitativa dell’architettura funzionale.
Nel terzo studio è stata esplorata la possibilità che la componente retrospettiva dell’effetto di priming semantico si basi sul recupero episodico della rappresentazione del prime. Nell’esperimento 5 i partecipanti (di madrelingua Inglese) hanno eseguito, durante la prima fase dell’esperimento, una decisione lessicale in cui sono stati manipolati QV e priming semantico. Al termine della prima fase, dopo un breve compito distrattore, i partecipanti eseguivano una prova di memoria di riconoscimento sui primes precedentemente presentati nel compito di decisione lessicale. I risultati hanno mostrato un trend in direzione di un miglior riconoscimento per quei primes che, nel compito di decisione lessicale, precedevano targets visivamente degradati rispetto a quelli che precedevano targets chiaramente visibili. Il risultato è coerente con l’idea che i prime presentati prima di target visivamente degradati siano soggetti a recupero episodico già nella fase di decisione lessicale e che ciò faciliti la prestazione nel compito di memoria. Nell’esperimento 6, analogo al precedente ma condotto con partecipanti di madrelingua Italiana, il tentativo di replicare l’effetto di QV nel compito di memoria non ha avuto successo, probabilmente a cause delle specifiche caratteristiche degli stimoli selezionati. Tuttavia, è stato rilevato, nel compito di memoria, un forte effetto di lessicalità: i partecipanti riconoscevano meglio quei primes che, in decisione lessicale, avevano preceduto parole reali, rispetto a quelli che avevano preceduto non-parole. Questi risultati suggeriscono che le operazioni cognitive condotte in un compito di decisione lessicale, e in particolare l’interazione tra prime e target, modulino le tracce mnesiche lasciate dagli stimoli stessi.
In conclusione, la componente retrospettiva e compensativa descritta entro il meccanismo di priming semantico ha dimostrato di essere un utile mezzo teorico per comprendere gli effetti congiunti di priming semantico, QV e frequenza, proponendo pertanto una nuova prospettiva con cui investigare il tema. Inoltre, evidenze preliminari suggeriscono che la componente retrospettiva sia operativa anche in un paradigma di priming di ripetizione e che il meccanismo sottostante il processo retrospettivo possa comprendere il recupero episodico della rappresentazione del prime. Infine, i risultati sottolineano la flessibilità e la sensibilità del sistema di lettura al contesto sperimentale (i.e., compito proposto, caratteristiche degli stimoli).

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Tipo di EPrint:Tesi di dottorato
Relatore:Peressotti, Francesca
Dottorato (corsi e scuole):Ciclo 25 > Scuole 25 > SCIENZE PSICOLOGICHE > SCIENZE COGNITIVE
Data di deposito della tesi:28 Gennaio 2013
Anno di Pubblicazione:28 Gennaio 2013
Parole chiave (italiano / inglese):visual word recognition; semantic priming
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 11 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche > M-PSI/01 Psicologia generale
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della Socializzazione
Codice ID:5563
Depositato il:11 Ott 2013 13:15
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