We examined whether meanings automatically activate linguistic forms, and whether these forms affect semantic decisions. Participants were presented sequentially with pairs of pictures and decided whether the objects in the pictures were related. At no point did they name the pictures. The object names of the experimental stimuli were ambiguous either in orthography (homographs), phonology (homophones), or both (homonyms), or unambiguous. We show that the lexical characteristics of the name of the objects affect a semantic decision about real world relations, in an online measure (N400), in addition to offline behavioral measures. We show a dissociation between conceptual and lexical recognition, where an earlier component (N230), was affected by relatedness, but was not sensitive to the lexical characteristics. We interpret this as supporting the hypothesis that semantic recognition occurs before the automatic lexical activation of the object name, but that once linguistic representations are activated, they affect semantic integration.
- Conceptual and Lexical representations
- Lexical ambiguity
- Semantic decisions