Is reading automatic? Are the ERP correlates of masked priming really lexical?

Dennis Norris*, Sachiko Kinoshita, Jane Hall, Richard Henson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Humans have an almost unbounded ability to adapt their behaviour to perform different tasks. In the laboratory, this flexibility is sometimes viewed as a nuisance factor that prevents access to the underlying cognitive mechanisms of interest. For example, in order to study “automatic” lexical processing, psycholinguists have used masked priming or evoked potentials. However, the pattern of masked priming can be radically altered by changing the task. In lexical decision, priming is observed for words but not for nonwords, yet in a same-different matching task, priming is observed for same responses but not for different responses, regardless of whether the target is a word or a nonword [Norris & Kinoshita, 2008. Perception as evidence accumulation and Bayesian inference: Insights from masked priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 137(3), 434–55. doi:10.1037/a0012799]. Here we show that evoked potentials are equally sensitive to the nature of required decision, with the neural activity normally associated with lexical processing being seen for both words and nonwords on same trials, and for neither on different trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1152-1167
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number9
Early online date5 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • reading
  • EEG
  • masked priming
  • lexical access
  • task-differences

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