The present study investigated whether the balance of neighborhood distribution (i.e., the way orthographic neighbors are spread across letter positions) influences visual word recognition. Three word conditions were compared. Word neighbors were either concentrated on one letter position (e.g.,nasse/basse-lasse-tasse-masse) or were unequally spread across two letter positions (e.g.,pelle/celle-selle-telle-perle), or were equally spread across two letter positions (e.g.,litre/titre-vitre-libre-livre). Predictions based on the interactive activation model [McClelland & Rumelhart (1981). Psychological Review, 88, 375-401] were generated by running simulations and were confirmed in the lexical decision task. Data showed that words were more rapidly identified when they had spread neighbors rather than concentrated neighbors. Furthermore, within the set of spread neighbors, words were more rapidly recognized when they had equally rather than unequally spread neighbors. The findings are explained in terms of activation and inhibition processes in the interactive activation framework.
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