Do masked orthographic neighbor primes facilitate or inhibit the processing of kanji compound words?

Mariko Nakayama*, Christopher R. Sears, Yasushi Hino, Stephen J. Lupker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In the masked priming paradigm, when a word target is primed by a higher frequency neighbor (e.g., blue-BLUR), lexical decision latencies are slower than when the same word is primed by an unrelated word of equivalent frequency (e.g., care-BLUR). This inhibitory neighbor priming effect (e.g., Davis & Lupker, 2006; Segui & Grainger, 1990) is taken as evidence for the lexical competition process that is an important component of localist activation-based models of visual word recognition (Davis, 2003; Grainger & Jacobs, 1996; McClelland & Rumelhart, 1981). The present research looked for evidence of an inhibitory neighbor priming effect using words written in Japanese Kanji, a logographic, nonalphabetic script. In 4 experiments (Experiments 1A, 1B, 3A, and 3B), inhibitory neighbor priming effects were observed for low-frequency targets primed by higher frequency Kanji word neighbors (WIS-IIIIS). In contrast, there was a significant facilitation effect when targets were primed by Kanji nonword neighbors (fitPi-Wit; Experiments 2 and 3). Significant facilitation was also observed when targets were primed by single constituent Kanji characters (fit-Wit; Experiment 4). Taken together, these results suggest that lexical competition plays a role in the recognition of Kanji words, just as it does for words in alphabetic languages. However, in Kanji, and likely in other logographic languages, the effect of lexical competition appears to be counteracted by facilitory morphological priming due to the repetition of a morphological unit in the prime and target (i.e., in Kanji, each character represents a morpheme).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-840
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Apr


  • Inhibitory neighbor priming
  • Kanji script
  • Lexical competition
  • Masked priming
  • Orthographic neighbors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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