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Lexical selection in the semantically blocked cyclic naming task: the role of cognitive control and learning.

  • Crowther, Jason E
  • Martin, Randi C
Published Article
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00009
PMID: 24478675


Studies of semantic interference in language production have provided evidence for a role of cognitive control mechanisms in regulating the activation of semantic competitors during naming. The present study investigated the relationship between individual differences in cognitive control abilities, for both younger and older adults, and the degree of semantic interference in a blocked cyclic naming task. We predicted that individuals with lower working memory capacity (as measured by word span), lesser ability to inhibit distracting responses (as measured by Stroop interference), and a lesser ability to resolve proactive interference (as measured by a recent negatives task) would show a greater increase in semantic interference in naming, with effects being larger for older adults. Instead, measures of cognitive control were found to relate to specific indices of semantic interference in the naming task, rather than overall degree of semantic interference, and few interactions with age were found, with younger and older adults performing similarly. The increase in naming latencies across naming trials within a cycle were negatively correlated with word span for both related and unrelated conditions, suggesting a strategy of narrowing response alternatives based upon memory for the set of item names. Evidence for a role of inhibition in response selection was obtained, as Stroop interference correlated positively with the change in naming latencies across cycles for the related, but not unrelated, condition. In contrast, recent negatives interference correlated negatively with the change in naming latencies across unrelated cycles, suggesting that individual differences in this tap the degree of strengthening of links in a lexical network based upon prior exposure. Results are discussed in terms of current models of lexical selection and consequences for word retrieval in more naturalistic production.

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