Semantic ambiguity and the process of generating meaning from print

Penny M. Pexman*, Yasushi Hino, Stephen J. Lupker

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    49 Citations (Scopus)


    An ambiguity disadvantage (slower responses for ambiguous words, e.g., bank, than for unambiguous words) has been reported in semantic tasks (L. R. Gottlob, S. D. Goldinger, G. O. Stone, & G. C. Van Orden, 1999; Y. Hino, S. J. Lupker, & P. M. Pexman, 2002; C. D. Piercey & S. Joordens, 2000) and has been attributed to the meaning activation process. The authors tested an alternative explanation: The ambiguity disadvantage arises from the decision-making process in semantic tasks. The authors examined effects of ambiguity on unrelated trials in a relatedness decision task, because these trials are free from response competition created by ambiguous words on related trials. Results showed no ambiguity effect on unrelated trials (Experiments 2, 3c, and 5c) and an ambiguity disadvantage on related trials (Experiments 3a, 3b, 5a, and 5b).

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1252-1270
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004


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