The serial nature of the masked onset priming effect revisited

Petroula Mousikou*, Max Coltheart

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Reading aloud is faster when target words/nonwords are preceded by masked prime words/nonwords that share their first sound with the target (e.g., save-SINK) compared to when primes and targets are unrelated to each other (e.g., farm-SINK). This empirical phenomenon is the masked onset priming effect (MOPE) and is known to be due to serial left-to-right processing of the prime by a sublexical reading mechanism. However, the literature in this domain lacks a critical experiment. It is possible that when primes are real words their orthographic/phonological representations are activated in parallel and holistically during prime presentation, so any phoneme overlap between primes and targets (and not just initial-phoneme overlap) could facilitate target reading aloud. This is the prediction made by the only computational models of reading aloud that are able to simulate the MOPE, namely the DRC1.2.1, CDP+, and CDP++ models. We tested this prediction in the present study and found that initial-phoneme overlap (blip-BEST), but not end-phoneme overlap (flat-BEST), facilitated target reading aloud compared to no phoneme overlap (junk-BEST). These results provide support for a reading mechanism that operates serially and from left to right, yet are inconsistent with all existing computational models of single-word reading aloud.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2239-2246
    Number of pages8
    JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2014


    • masked onset priming effect
    • theories of reading aloud
    • computational models of reading aloud


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