Kimberly Preusse, Jennifer Lewis, Carla Prieto, & Alexandra K. Frzer - Consequences of Consonance: Sound Similarity Increases Semantic Interference

We examined the combined and separate effects of phonological form preparation, a facilitatory attentional process, and semantic interference, which involves unconscious adaptation in memory, using blocked cyclic picture naming. Our key question concerns the crucial combined condition (e.g., cyclically name puffin, pigeon, and peacock) in which sharing both sound and meaning should cause the words to be more activated than words that share only meaning. Does the increased activation of these words lead to more semantic interference, even though beginning with a P clearly does not have anything to do with the meaning of BIRD? The short answer is yes:  We found more interference in the combined condition. This supports an incremental learning theory of semantic interference where the accessibility of words is reduced proportionately to how strongly they are activated at the wrong time. More generally, the mappings between words and their meanings are continuously and unconsciously adjusted as they are spoken or left unspoken.   
Supported by a Strohl  Undergraduate Research Award.
Kimberly is a senior majoring in Psychology and Sociology/Anthropology from Burnt Hills, New York. She is involved in the Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority and is a resident advisor for first year students. Next year she will be attending graduate school in a psychology program.  Jennifer is a Biology major and Psychology minor from North Wales, Pennsylvania. She is a tour guide and involved in Greek Life through the Pi Beta Phi Sorority. She is also a volunteer at the HEARTSLink clinic, a free health clinic in Bethlehem. Carla is a Psychology and Journalism major from Bethlehem, PA. She is currently studying abroad in Spain. Alexandra is a doctoral candidate in Cognitive Psychology from Arizona. She is planning to become a professor.