Now you see it, now you don't: Flanker presence induces the word concreteness effect


  • Vandendaele Aaron
  • Grainger Jonathan


  • Flankers task
  • Word concreteness
  • Lexical decision
  • Depth-of-processing

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Can the presence of unrelated flanker words change the way that lexical decisions are made to target words in the flankers task? Here we examined the impact of flanker presence on the effects of word concreteness. Target words had high or low concreteness ratings (e.g., fork, free) and were either presented in isolation or flanked to the left and right by an unrelated word (e.g., cold free cold) that was irrelevant for the task. Results revealed that the facilitatory effect of concreteness (faster responses to concrete words compared with abstract words) was significantly greater in the presence of flankers. A control experiment revealed the same pattern with pseudoword and nonword flankers. We conclude that the mere presence of flanking letter strings causes a greater depth of processing of target words. We further speculate that this might arise by flankers inducing a more "sentence-like" context by the presence of multiple, spatially distinct letter strings, that prohibits the use of more superficial decision processes and can be used to make lexical decisions to isolated words.

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