Words with richer semantic representations are recognized faster across a range of lexical processing tasks. The most influential account of this finding is based on the idea that semantic richness effects are mediated by feedback from semantic-level to lower-level representations. In an earlier lexical decision study, Yap, Lim, and Pexman (2015) tested this claim by examining the joint effects of stimulus quality and four semantic richness dimensions (imageability, number of features, semantic neighborhood density, semantic diversity). The results of that study showed that joint effects of stimulus quality and richness were generally additive, consistent with the idea that semantic feedback does not typically reach the earliest levels of representation in lexical decision. The present study extends this earlier work by investigating the joint effects of stimulus quality and the same four semantic richness dimensions on syntactic classification performance (is this a noun or verb?), which places relatively more emphasis on semantic processing. Additive effects of stimulus quality and richness were found for two of the four targeted dimensions (concreteness, number of features) while semantic neighborhood density and semantic diversity did not seem to influence syntactic classification response times. These findings provide further support against the view that semantic information reaches early letter-level processes.
Yap, M. J., & Pexman, P. M. (2016). Semantic richness effects in syntactic classification: The role of feedback. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(SEP). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01394