Serial mechanisms in lexical access: The rank hypothesis

W. S. Murray*, K. I. Forster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Citations (Scopus)


There is general agreement that the effect of frequency on lexical access time is roughly logarithmic, although little attention has been given to the reason for this. The authors argue that models of lexical access that incorporate a frequency-ordered serial comparison or verification procedure provide an account of this effect and predict that the underlying function directly relates access time to the rank order of words in a frequency-ordered set. For both group data and individual data, it is shown that rank provides a better fit to the data than does a function based on log frequency. Extensions to a search model are proposed that account for error rates and latencies and the effect of age of acquisition, which is interpreted as an effect of cumulative frequency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-756
Number of pages36
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


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