Date of Award

Fall 12-5-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



The phenomenological experience of lexical retrieval involves conscious and active attempts to retrieve semantically related information, but the direct influence of this retrieval process on subsequent retrieval is presently unknown. We investigated the influence of passively viewing or actively retrieving different types of information at the critical moment preceding lexical retrieval through a novel priming paradigm. Participants attempted to retrieve target words (e.g., FOLIAGE) from their low-frequency definitions or descriptions (e.g., the leafy parts of a plant or tree, collectively). Across five experiments, target retrieval was preceded by the brief presentation of a prime word (Experiment 1), progressive demasking of the prime (Experiment 2), the retrieval of a prime word from its description (in Experiments 3 and 4), or retrieval of a prime word from episodic memory (Experiment 5). Primes were either “both” semantically and phonologically related (e.g., FOREST), only phonologically related (e.g., FOLDING), only semantically related (e.g., VEGETATION), or unrelated (e.g., PRODIGY) to the target word. In Experiment 1, phonological facilitation in target retrieval accuracy was observed when primes were passively viewed. In contrast, when participants attempted to identify primes via demasking (Experiment 2) or retrieve primes from their definitions (Experiments 3 and 4), no phonological facilitation was observed. Further, successful retrieval of semantic and “both” primes in Experiments 3 and 4 facilitated target retrieval, and failure to retrieve semantic and “both” primes resulted in decreased target accuracy. This inhibitory influence of prime retrieval did not extend to retrieval of unrelated primes from episodic memory (Experiment 5). These studies suggest that unsuccessful retrieval of information from the same semantic space as the target word produces inhibition for subsequent target retrieval processes.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

David A Balota

Committee Members

Janet Duchek, Mitchell Sommers