Lexically guided retuning of letter perception

Norris, D., Butterfield, S., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2006). Lexically guided retuning of letter perception. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59(9), 1505-1515. doi:10.1080/17470210600739494.
Participants made visual lexical decisions to upper-case words and nonwords, and then categorized an ambiguous N–H letter continuum. The lexical decision phase included different exposure conditions: Some participants saw an ambiguous letter “?”, midway between N and H, in N-biased lexical contexts (e.g., REIG?), plus words with unambiguousH(e.g., WEIGH); others saw the reverse (e.g., WEIG?, REIGN). The first group categorized more of the test continuum as N than did the second group. Control groups, who saw “?” in nonword contexts (e.g., SMIG?), plus either of the unambiguous word sets (e.g., WEIGH or REIGN), showed no such subsequent effects. Perceptual learning about ambiguous letters therefore appears to be based on lexical knowledge, just as in an analogous speech experiment (Norris, McQueen, & Cutler, 2003) which showed similar lexical influence in learning about ambiguous phonemes. We argue that lexically guided learning is an efficient general strategy available for exploitation by different specific perceptual tasks.
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