The Rank Hypothesis and Lexical Decision: A Reply to Adelman and Brown (2008)

Wayne S. Murray*, Kenneth I. Forster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


J. S. Adelman and G. D. A. Brown (2008) provided an extensive analysis of the form of word frequency and contextual diversity effects on lexical decision time. In this reply, the current authors suggest that their analysis provides a valuable tool for the evaluation of models of lexical access and that the results they report are broadly supportive of the rank hypothesis suggested by W. S. Murray and K. I. Forster (2004)-more supportive, in fact, than the originally reported data. However, Adelman and Brown's conclusion that the results of these analyses can be taken as evidence against rank (and thereby serial models of lexical access) and for instance models is rejected. It is shown that at least one instance model makes the wrong predictions and that Adelman and Brown's conclusions rest on the assumption that lexical decision time presents a pure measure of the time involved in lexical access. Results from eye tracking are reported, which also support a rank account, as do results from analyses that show that a log frequency account is clearly inadequate. Finally, it is demonstrated that, unlike other models, the rank account continues to make accurate predictions regarding the form of both reaction time and error rate effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-251
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • eye movements
  • frequency
  • mathematical modeling
  • rank
  • word recognition


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