Bedding down new words: sleep promotes the emergence of lexical competition in visual word recognition

Hua Chen Wang*, Greg Savage, M. Gareth Gaskell, Tamara Paulin, Serje Robidoux, Anne Castles

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)
    10 Downloads (Pure)


    Lexical competition processes are widely viewed as the hallmark of visual word recognition, but little is known about the factors that promote their emergence. This study examined for the first time whether sleep may play a role in inducing these effects. A group of 27 participants learned novel written words, such as banara, at 8 am and were tested on their learning at 8 pm the same day (AM group), while 29 participants learned the words at 8 pm and were tested at 8 am the following day (PM group). Both groups were retested after 24 hours. Using a semantic categorization task, we showed that lexical competition effects, as indexed by slowed responses to existing neighbor words such as banana, emerged 12 h later in the PM group who had slept after learning but not in the AM group. After 24 h the competition effects were evident in both groups. These findings have important implications for theories of orthographic learning and broader neurobiological models of memory consolidation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1186–1193
    Number of pages8
    JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
    Issue number4
    Early online date26 Oct 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


    • visual word recognition
    • lexical competition
    • word learning
    • lexical consolidation
    • sleep


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