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Masked orthographic neighbor priming effects in Chinese two-character words

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 May 2023

Huilan Yang*
Department of Foreign Languages, Zhejiang Gongshang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Giacomo Spinelli
Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, MI, Italy
Lingling Li
Department of Applied Foreign Languages, Zhejiang International Studies University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Stephen J. Lupker
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada
Corresponding authors: Huilan Yang and Stephen J. Lupker; Emails:;


In masked priming lexical decision tasks in alphabetic or syllabic script languages, latencies are longer when a word target is primed by a higher frequency neighbor (e.g., blue–BLUR) than when primed by an unrelated word of equivalent frequency (e.g., care–BLUR) – an “inhibitory neighbor priming effect.” In contrast, Zhou et al. (1999) demonstrated facilitatory orthographic neighbor priming for two-character Chinese words (e.g., 华丽–华贵). However, Zhou et al. did not control for relative prime-target frequency, which has been shown to be important in experiments when examining languages with other scripts. In the present Experiment 1 word neighbor primes (e.g., 容易-容貌) produced an inhibitory neighbor priming effect when the prime was higher frequency than the target, paralleling effects in other script languages. In further experiments, paralleling those in other script languages, two-character targets primed by nonword neighbors (容待-容貌) or single constituent characters matching the target in either position (容-容貌) showed significant facilitation. These results suggest that lexical activation/competition processes for two-character Chinese words are reasonably similar to those for words in alphabetic/syllabic script languages.

© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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