Eyes wide open: Pupil size as a proxy for inhibition in the masked-priming paradigm

Pupillometry
Word Recognition
Language
Eye-tracking
Inhibition

Geller, J., Still, M. L., & Morris, A. L. (2016). Eyes wide open: Pupil size as a proxy for inhibition in the masked-priming paradigm.Memory & cognition, 44(4), 554–564. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-015-0577-4

Authors
Affiliations

Iowa State University

Mary L Still

Old Dominion University

Alison Morris

Iowa State University

Published

May 2016

Doi

Abstract

A core assumption underlying competitive-network models of word recognition is that in order for a word to be recognized, the representations of competing orthographically similar words must be inhibited. This inhibitory mechanism is revealed in the masked-priming lexical-decision task (LDT) when responses to orthographically similar word prime–target pairs are slower than orthographically different word prime–target pairs (i.e., inhibitory priming). In English, however, behavioral evidence for inhibitory priming has been mixed. In the present study, we utilized a physiological correlate of cognitive effort never before used in the masked-priming LDT, pupil size, to replicate and extend behavioral demonstrations of inhibitory effects (i.e., Nakayama, Sears, & Lupker, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34, 1236–1260, 2008, Exp. 1). Previous research had suggested that pupil size is a reliable indicator of cognitive load, making it a promising index of lexical inhibition. Our pupillometric data replicated and extended previous behavioral findings, in that inhibition was obtained for orthographically similar word prime–target pairs. However, our response time data provided only a partial replication of Nakayama et al. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34, 1236–1260, 2008. These results provide converging lines of evidence that inhibition operates in word recognition and that pupillometry is a useful addition to word recognition researchers’ toolbox.