Beyond spreading activation: an influence of relatedness proportion on masked semantic priming

Glen E. Bodner, Michael E.J. Masson

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117 Citations (Scopus)


Semantic priming in the lexical decision task has been shown to increase when the proportion of related-prime trials is increased. This finding typically is taken as evidence for a conscious, strategic use of primes. Three experiments are reported in which masked semantic primes displayed for only 45 msec were tested in high- versus low-relatedness proportion conditions. Relatedness proportion was increased either by using a high proportion of semantically related primes or a large set of repetition-primed filler trials. Semantic priming was consistently enhanced relative to a low-relatedness proportion condition. These relatedness proportion effects were not due to conscious, strategic use of primes: Exclusion of prime-aware subjects did not attenuate the effects, and better performance in a prime classification task was not associated with larger semantic priming effects. These results are interpreted within a retrospective account of semantic priming in which recruitment of a prime event is modulated by prime validity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-652
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • relatedness proportion
  • lexical decision
  • Semantic Priming


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