How Many Words Can We Read at Once?

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In 2013, The Journal of Memory and Language published a research-backed cognitive psychology article titled “How many words can we read at once? More intervenor effects in masked priming” by Kenneth I. Forster. Forster, a professor of Psychology at the University of Arizona, assesses that “when a masked word intervenes between the prime (L1 (native language)) and the target (L2 (second language), three words must be processed simultaneously, and that under these conditions, form priming is eliminated altogether and identity priming is reduced, suggesting that the capacity of the lexical processor does not extend to three words”. It is argued that the differential effect of the intervenor on identity and form priming can be explained using the assumption that priming takes place at the level of form as well as the level of meaning. Forster, through this research, generalizes the information collected from all the higher degree seeking individuals as if to say that since this is true for college freshman it must be true for all grade levels. Even though I understand his questions and his motives in not only the questions he asks but also his experiments and the objectives he was trying to achieve by stating that “each time we read a word, we must recover the stored information about the phonology, syntax, and semantics of that word. Moreover, this information must be retrieved extremely rapidly and because so much processing has to be done, it seems obvious that the processing of one word must overlap to some degree with the processing of the next word” (1). Though Forster offers many valid points pertaining to the amount of words we can read at once, he fails to acknowledge those who do not fall into this category by only testing U...

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...ded and the feedback was displayed, the next trial was initiated automatically” (3). The results of this experiment were the mean RTs and error rates are reported in Mixed-effects analysis of the RTs showed that there was a significant identity priming effect (17.5 ms), t = 2.92, p < .01 that did not interact with type of intervenor, t < 1. In contrast, the form priming effect (4.5 ms) was not significant, t < 1. The only significant effect in the analysis of the error rates was a slight increase in errors when the intervenor was a nonword, z = 2.01, p = .04. The remaining three experiments followed suit but simply differed by the change in the intervenor. The experiment showed me what Forster was trying to say. The terminology used and the general idea of the topic was understandable but the full comprehension did not occur until the experiments and the results.

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