Inhibition of Ambiguous Word Activation In the Context of a Working Memory Task

Christopher A Was


The current study examines the question of whether or not all meanings of an ambiguous word are activated in the context of a working memory task, regardless of context as predicted by the exhaustive access hypothesis or if only context relevant meanings are activated. Three experiments investigated the effects of disambiguating information on the amount of activation for multiple meanings of biased homographs. Lower levels of associative priming were present for the dominant meaning of homographs in which the subordinate meaning was instantiated as compared to the dominant meaning of homographs in which no meaning is instantiated. This research supports a more interactive view of ambiguous word recognition, involving the spread of activation and inhibition of irrelevant meaning through selected attention.

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