Neighborhood effects in visual word recognition: Facilitatory or inhibitory?

Joan Gay Snodgrass, Miriam Mintzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


In five experiments, in which subjects were to identify a target word as it was gradually clarified, we manipulated the target's frequency of occurrence in the language and its neighborhood size-the number of words that can be constructed from a target word by changing one letter, while preserving letter position. In Experiments 1-4, visual identification performance to screen-fragmented words was measured. In Experiments 1 and 2, we used the ascending method of limits, whereas Experiments 3 and 4 presented a fixed-level fragment. In Experiment 1, there was no relation between overall accuracy and neighborhood size for-words-between three and six letters in length. However, more errors of commission (guesses) were made for high-neighborhood words and more errors of omission (blanks) were made for low-neighborhood words. Letter errors within guesses occurred at serial positions having many neighbors, and these positions were also likely to contain consonants rather than vowels. In Experiment 2, a small facilitatory effect of neighborhood size on bothhigh- and low-frequency words was found. In contrast, in Experiments 3 and 4, using the same set of words, inhibitory effects of neighborhood size, but only for low-frequency words, were found. Experiment 5, using a speeded identification task, showed results parallel to those of Experiments 3 and 4. We suggest that whether neighborhood effects are facilitatory or inhibitory depends on whether feedback allows subjects to disconfirm initial hypotheses that the target is a high-frequency neighbor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-266
Number of pages20
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Neighborhood effects in visual word recognition: Facilitatory or inhibitory?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this