Repetition priming and frequency attenuation in lexical access

Kenneth I. Forster*, Chris Davis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

926 Citations (Scopus)


Six experiments investigated repetition priming and frequency attenuation in lexical access with 164 college students. Repetition priming effects in lexical decision tasks are stronger for low-frequency words than for high-frequency words. This frequency attenuation effect creates problems for frequency-ordered search models that assume a relatively stable frequency effect. It was posited that frequency attenuation is a product of the involvement of the episodic memory system in the lexical decision process. This hypothesis was supported by the demonstration of constant repetition effects for high- and low-frequency words when the priming stimulus was masked; the masking was assumed to minimize the influence of any possible episodic trace of the prime. It was further shown that long-term repetition effects were much less reliable when the S was not required to make a lexical decision response to the prime. When a response was required, the expected frequency attenuation effect was restored. It is concluded that normal repetition effects consist of 2 components: a very brief lexical effect that is independent of frequency and a long-term episodic effect that is sensitive to frequency. (32 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)680-698
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1984
Externally publishedYes


  • repetition of priming stimulus &
  • word frequency attenuation, lexical decision tasks performance, college students

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