Semantic interpretability does not influence masked priming effects

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Much of the recent masked nonword priming literature demonstrates no difference in priming between affixed and non-affixed nonword primes (e.g., maskity-MASK vs maskondMASK). A possible explanation for the absence of a difference is that studies have used affixed primes which were semantically uninterpretable (Heathcote, Nation, Castles, & Beyersmann, 2017). Therefore, this explanation indicates semantic interpretability plays a fundamental role inmasked priming. To test this account, we conducted an experiment using the masked priming paradigm in the lexical decision task. We compared responses to targets which were preceded by one of four primes types: 1) interpretable affixed nonwords (e.g. maskless-MASK), 2) uninterpretable affixed nonwords (e.g. maskity-MASK), 3) non-affixed nonwords (e.g., maskondMASK) and 4) unrelated words (e.g. tubeful-MASK). Our results follow the trend of finding nodifference between affixed and non-affixed primes. Critically, however, we observed no difference in priming between uninterpretable and interpretable affixed primes. Thus, our results suggest that semantic interpretability does not influence masked priming.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Early online date7 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2020

Structured keywords

  • Language
  • Cognitive Science


  • semantic interpretability, masked priming, morphological processing, visual word recognition, lexical decision


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