Semantic ambiguity and the process of generating meaning from print

Penny M. Pexman*, Yasushi Hino, Stephen J. Lupker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


An ambiguity disadvantage (slower responses for ambiguous words, e.g., bank, than for unambiguous words) has been reported in semantic tasks (L. R. Gottlob, S. D. Goldinger, G. O. Stone, & G. C. Van Orden, 1999; Y. Hino, S. J. Lupker, & P. M. Pexman, 2002; C. D. Piercey & S. Joordens, 2000) and has been attributed to the meaning activation process. The authors tested an alternative explanation: The ambiguity disadvantage arises from the decision-making process in semantic tasks. The authors examined effects of ambiguity on unrelated trials in a relatedness decision task, because these trials are free from response competition created by ambiguous words on related trials. Results showed no ambiguity effect on unrelated trials (Experiments 2, 3c, and 5c) and an ambiguity disadvantage on related trials (Experiments 3a, 3b, 5a, and 5b).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1252-1270
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2004 Nov
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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