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Jiafei Lou, Zhi Li; Evidence of parallel processing of Chinese characters constituting a phrase. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):490. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.490.
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Whether words are processed serially or in parallel is still in debate. The serial-attention shift models, such as E-Z Reader, posit that reading proceeds in a word-by-word fashion, with lexical processing being completed with one word at a time. In contrast, the attention-gradient models, such as SWIFT, argue that readers deploy a broad gradient of attention during reading, with lexical processing distributed across several words simultaneously. In a recent study, White et al. (2019) showed that observers could not recognize two unrelated words simultaneously. In natural reading, neighboring words are often highly related. Thus, in the present study, we examined whether the collocative relation of Chinese characters may affect the processing mode (i.e., serial or parallel). Chinese character pairs (the two characters were displayed side by side) were shown in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stream. Most characters were verb. There could be at most one noun character in each side. Observers were asked to judge whether a noun was shown in a particular side, previously instructed to attend to only one side (single-task condition) or both sides (dual-task condition). The collocative relation between the Chinese characters was manipulated. The processing was closer to a parallel mode when the two characters constituted a phrase than when they were unrelated. This phrase-induced parallel processing in Chinese characters was substantially reduced when the two characters were switched in position or when there was a third unrelated character inserted in between them. These findings suggest that the collocative relation between the Chinese characters may affect the processing mode of the characters and that the processing appears in parallel when the characters constitute a meaningful phrase.
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